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This remarkable book preserves in faithful 
translation, and sometimes in their original 
Island language as well, every traditional 
tale that is remembered and told in Torres 
Strait today. 

More than a hundred and twenty years have 
passed since the first European recorded in 
writing a myth of Torres Strait. The tale was 
collected at Muralag by John MacGillivray, 
naturalist on board the "Rattlesnake", then 
on a survey voyage in those waters. 

Haifa century later, Haddon and Ray of the 
Cambridge Anthropological Expedition ob- 
tained from some of the Islanders a number 
of stories which are preserved in the Expedi- 
tion's Reports. But, because the Expedition 
was only four months in the Strait, collection 
was limited to two islands, Mer and Mabuiag. 

The work of collecting and preserving the 
myths and legends of the whole area, a task 
made more difficult with the passing of time, 
remained undone for a further seventy 
years. Margaret Lawrie began this mammoth 
undertaking at the request of the Islanders 
themselves, fearful for the loss of their rich 
heritage once today's old men were gone. 
The danger was very real. For although the 
reservation of these islands for their own 
indigenous people had permitted the 
Islanders to retain remarkably strong links 
with their past, nevertheless many factors 
had contributed to a fading knowledge of the 
old traditional tales. Influences such as in- 
creasing contact with the outside world, the 
dispersal of many of the Island inhabitants 
to mainland Australia, and, since the "Com- 
ing of the Light", a century of learning 
Bible stories, all were making it difficult for 
the old myths to survive. 

(continued on back flap) 



1. (E) Ara napai Ara tarema praises the current, 
Magani, which originates in the whirlpool, 
Ara, not far from Tudu (Warrior Island). 
The tide is full. Foam-capped waves ring Ara. 
They rise high. Magani flows strong. 
Sung by Simeon Harry and Sesa Harry 
at Yam Island 

2. Miso miso ronde recalls the stringing of 
bows, the crack of bones, the arrows shot 
in a battle against the Tuger (in West 

Sung by Sesa Harry at Yam Island 

3. Mere (e) Dubumere (e) were (e). A young 
man takes his first head during a raid by 
Boigu warriors on the northern mainland; 
he stands in the bow of the leading canoe 
as it runs in to land, and throws the head to 
an old woman standing on the beach. She 
swings it while this Song is sung. 

Sung by Moses Dau at Boigu 

4. Awaial (a) gulai bui kabutima. After enemy 
heads have been brought home to Tudu, 
they are taken to an old woman at Damud 
(Dalrymple Island) to be cleaned. As the 
canoes sail away with the heads, the people 
watching them go think that they look 
like pelicans. 

Sung by Simeon Harry at Yam Island 

5. Malu kula, malu kula, dari waidemua belongs 
to the Mawa ceremony, which was held 
each year when the ubar (wild plum of 
Torres Strait) were ripe. 

The waves breaking over a stone at the edge oj 
the reef throw up foam. It looks like dari 
Dari are head-dresses made from the 
feathers of karbai, the white reef heron. 
Intoned by Wagea and Kala Waia, 
Mebai Warusam, and Alfred Aniba at 

6. Jugubal bai kadaipa tadipa. The jugubal 
(certain bright stars — here, the Seven 
Sisters) are moving up the sky. 

The dugong hunter waits in vain on his plat- 
form. He will wait until sunrise. 
Sung by Enosa Waigana at Saibai 



Singers: Sarou Billy, Dau Tom, and 

George Passi 

These songs belong to religious ceremonies 
performed in worship of Malo-Bomai at Mer 
(Murray Island). Formerly they were sung by 
initiated male members of a single clan, the 
Zagareb le, two of whom kept time for the 
singing by beating the sacred shark-mouthed 
drums, Nimau and Wasikor. 

7. (O) welub (a), (O) lewer-lewer (a) is one of 
the few Malo-Bomai songs to survive in 
its original form, a song so secret and 
terrible that uninitiated members of the 
cult did not leave their homes on the day 
that it was sung, for fear that some disaster 
befall them (for instance, they might be 
taken by a shark or attacked by a stingray). 

8. (O) ad ge, (O) pat ge is another Malo- 
Bomai song that has survived in its original 
form. It was sung at the conclusion of a 
particular ritual. 

The actions of the Malo dances {zogo kab) 
are remembered, but they are performed 
today to songs which were composed 
rather less than a hundred years ago. 

9. Waur kapu gub announces that the sacred 
dances are about to begin. 

10. Sagaro wati wati (o) is sung for the dance of 

the Geregere le (Parrot men). 
11 (O) (ia) kari (ia) gangan accompanies the 

Seuriseuri dance, during which seuriseuri 

(four-rayed stone-headed clubs) are passed 

from dancer to dancer. 

Letters in parenthesis indicate rhythmic sounds. They have no meaning. 



and translated 






The University of Queensland Press grate- 
fully acknowledges the help of the State 
Government of Queensland, and in partic- 
ular would like to thank the Department of 
Aboriginal and Island Affairs for their 
co-operation and assistance, both to the 
author and to the publisher. Without their 
aid, the illustrations and the recording, which 
are so essential to this book, could not have 
been included. 

© University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 
Queensland, 1970 

National Library of Australia card number 
and ISBN 7022 0622 9 

Distributed by International Scholarly Book 
Services, Inc., Great Britain - Europe - 
North America 

This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing 
for the purposes of private study, research, criticism, 
or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, 
no part may be reproduced by any process without 
written permission. Enquiries should be made to 
the publishers. 

Photoset in Bembo 12/14. Printed and bound by 
Watson Ferguson & Co., Brisbane 

Designed by Cyrelle 



I am indebted to many people. Without 
their help and encouragement this book 
could hardly have been begun, and it would 
certainly not have been completed. 

The late Mr. J. C. A. Pizzey, first as 
Minister for Education and Aboriginal and 
Island Affairs, and then as Premier of Queens- 
land, and the late Sir Fred Schonell, Vice- 
Chancellor of the University of Queensland, 
fostered the project from its inception. 

Mr. P.J. Killoran, Director of Aboriginal 
and Island Affairs in Queensland, than whom 
no one has more knowledge of Torres Strait 
and Torres Strait Islanders, gave me wise 
counsel when I needed it. I thank him and 
his staff — in particular, those members based 
at Thursday Island — for the co-operation, 
always freely given, which enabled me to 
work in that remote region where anyone 
engaged in research is wholly dependent on 
departmental facilities for transport, com- 
munication, and supply. 

I am grateful to Dr. Colin Roderick, 
Professor of English at the University College 
of Townsville (now the James Cook Uni- 
versity of North Queensland) for guidance 
during the early stages of the work. 

In 1967, the Australian Institute of Abori- 
ginal Studies made a Uher tape recorder and 
tapes available to me for use in Torres Strait. 
I thank the Principal, Mr. F. D. McCarthy, 
for this practical assistance. He and his staff 

made me very welcome whenever I called 
at the Institute. 

Professor Peter Lawrence, until recently 
Head of the Department of Anthropology 
and Sociology at the University of Queens- 
land, has given me a great deal of much 
appreciated help and guidance in the use of 
anthropological terms. However, he is an 
expert and I am an amateur, and if any errors 
remain the responsibility is entirely mine. 

Mr. Selwyn Everist, Queensland Govern- 
ment Botanist, and members of his staff 
kindly identified plant specimens from 
Murray Island. The nature of my indebted- 
ness to Mr. B. P. Lambert, Director of 
National Mapping, is separately acknow- 

Those who helped with the translations 
were Wagea Waia and Alfred Aniba of 
Saibai; Tabepa Mau of Dauan; Namai 
Pabai and Kada Waireg of Boigu; Maurie 
Eseli and William Min of Mabuiag; Joe 
Mairu, Tupo Nona, Ben Nona, and Fr Mara 
of Badu; Wees Nawia of Kubin; Murray 
Lui of Coconut Island; Getano Lui of Yam 
Island; Ned Mosby of Yorke Island; and 
George Passi of Murray Island. All were 
endlessly patient teachers, explaining customs 
and idiomatic expressions — and going on 
explaining them — until they were satisfied 
that I understood. 

Kala Waia of Saibai, Ephraim Bani of 

Mabuiag, Ngailu Bani of Kubin, and Segar 
Passi of Murray Island illustrated stories 
from their respective islands, and Segar 
Passi also provided the numerous water- 
colour drawings of fauna of the area. The 
two pencil sketches of larerkep were done by 
George Passi, also of Murray Island. Derek 
Cumner, missionary-carpenter, drew the 
sketches of Malo dancers especially for this 

My husband Ellis understood the necessity 
for me to be absent from home for long 
periods; my sons, Greig, David, and 
Roderick, cheerfully 'batched" for months 
on end; my daughter Edith typed the whole 
manuscript : the collection of the myths and 
legends of Torres Strait was a family involve- 

I would like also to thank my publishers, 
the University of Queensland Press, in 
particular the Manager, Mr. Frank 
Thompson, for his interest and assistance. 
The job of editing fell to my good friend, 
Shirley Hockings, whom I thank from the 
bottom of my heart for transmuting a be- 
ginner's effort into a book. 

Finally, I express my gratitude to the 
Queensland Government for their generous 
financial grant to the publishers. The Pre- 
mier, Mr. J. Bjelke-Petersen, and the Minis- 
ter for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr. 
N. Hewitt, knowing Torres Strait as they 
do, understand how much it will mean to 
the Islands people to see their stories illus- 
trated in colour and to have some of their 
old songs on a record. 


List of Illustrations xiii 
List of Maps xv 

Muralag, Gialag, Muri, Nurupai 

Potikain and Ngiangu 5 

Waubin 6 

Ialbuz 9 

Zalagi and the Mari 10 

Utua Ninia 11 

Dupul and Mumag 12 

Aiwali of Muri 13 

Waiaba 15 


Naga 19 

Karakarkula 23 

Aukam and Tiai 24 

Sik 27 

Im 29 

The Seven Blind Brothers 30 

Wamin Ngurbum 33 

Burumnaskai 34 

Karum 36 

Kuduluk and Kui 37 

Burum 38 

Note on Preparation of Maps xv 
Introduction xvii 


Muta 39 

Raramai 41 

Yelub and His Dog 42 

Usius 43 

Gora and the Buk 44 

Goba 45 


Bia 49 

Wad and Zigin 53 

The Four Beautiful Daughters 55 

Dokere 56 

Sesere 57 

Iawar 61 

Biu 62 

Kuaka 62 

Tubu and the Seven Sisters 63 

The Dogai of Zurat 65 

Mutuk 68 

Wawa 70 

Greedy Goba 73 

Beug and the Sarup 74 

Waii and Sobai 76 

Pitai 78 


K a salfinlf 

IVdjdJX 14.1 IV 


1 / / 

How Fire Was Brought to Torres 

K on era 




\X/ o m o 1 o ri i 
W d llidldLii 


Sisters Who Quarrelled 


J\A pfa r a \A/a i 




R r>a TCa HncvA/am 

IVUa i\.d \J Ci V v alii 




Hnw Raira f^of a AX/itp 

J- J. w W ±Jalka VJUL d VV I IL V— 



Deibui and Teikui 


A crnnnio* 

i L/Lll UfcL 


The Saga of Kuiam 


\/4 a lori 


Doeai I 




1 7U 



The Pet CVnrndilp 

X 11'—* J. CI V^L UvWUllv 


1 7 zl 





J. S 1 

The Markai of Tawapagai 


A nkam 


1 7J 







\X/a nittnna m a 1 71 n era 

VV dl LI L4 LIUdllldlx.lllc' d 



11 3 

\/1 ikii inn t" r» ^ I Arr\n 1 1 ♦* 

1 Q8 



A tn a cri 


1 QQ 



1 1 O 



Tawaka, the Greedy Man 


Crocodile Play 




Gi of Dabangai 




ZW / 


T)r»cra t N/4pt"a kf ira n 

x.-'Wiidl 1 Vlt. IdlV 141 d Lf 



i-rPinan atin Tibial 

VJJtllldLl dllLi JCidi 

91 9 
z i z 

Kusa Kap 


Damak ann T~)aram 

i— ' d 1 It a IY dHU 4_^dldlll 

91 4 




vv ail v ti 

91 6 

Z 1 D 



dana lai Oocrai 

v — • a l let id 1 J * cLal 

z 1 



Moinii and Ra7i 

91 9 



The Discoverv of the Oarden T and 

J--' * J v v_/ v v_- 1 y \j l lilL. v 1 ell 1 1 , cL 1 1 vl 

The Kiwai Raiders 


at Padm 

al 1. dl_llll 


lvV,l V— 1 Lit 11 




^X/a \A/a 

VV d VV d 




Darak and Croidan 

-» s cl l a rv d 1 iu v 1 v 1 vldi 1 

zz / 

The First Man at Saibai 


rOnPnonP and Mcrn kiirt^nd^rtnd*^ 
A- vj V-iV- U-* dllLl 1 N ti Lllv 111 UwLlCUL)vJ.C 



Nima and Poipoi 


Maui and Usuru 


The Story of Ait Kadal 


Mau and Mafancr 

I'lO 1-t Cl 1 1 v+ A VI cl vdl 1 ti 




Ausi and Dubua 


Susui and Dengam 


Dugama, Maker of Dugong Magic 


Karbai and Pukat 


Babaia and Sagewa 








Kawai — Part I 





—Part II 


The Diamond Fish 


Uzu, the White Dogai 






Umi Markail 













T T _ 


Kaperkaper the Cannibal 


Badi and the Sabei 




1 he snake or Apro 


ihe Muiar 


Zub and the Lamar 


Paimi a Nawanawa 


Ihe lwo bpint Women 01 JJaoma 






The Lamar Who Became a Rainbow 




oeaor 01 Leiwag 





Maizab Kaur 




Rebes and Id 


Malo ra Gelar 






Didipapa and Gorarasiasi 


Kos and Abob 


Imermer and Kikmermer 







Wakai and Kuskus 




The Origin of Mosquitoes 


Apinini and Sidipuar 




The Story of Peibri 


Adba — Part I 




—Part II 


Pop and Kod 






Ganomi and Palai 


Nageg and Geigi 


Nilar Makrem 


Markep and Sarkep 




The Story of Meidu 








Wees Nawia of Kubin attired for the 
modern dance which derives from 
the myth, "Waubin" 7 
Dugong-hunter 16 
Saulal time, the season of mating turtle 22 
Im (as Banded Wobbegong) 30 
Kuduluk ("cuckoo") 37 
Mota Charlie, one of the story-tellers 51 
The light-coloured dugong of West 

Torres Strait 58 
Sesere (as willy-wagtail) 60 
The bird which Kuaka became. The 
sketch in the corner shows Kuaka 
standing on the beach at Badu, 
imploring her brothers, Tagai and 
Kang, to come back for her 63 
Walek, who brought fire to Torres 

Strait 83 
Kaumain staring at his wife, Kamut- 
nab, and her children (Hamelin 
Boulders) 86 
Kuiam in Daudai (New Guinea) 96 
Gumu, where Kuiam lived 98 
Maurie Eseli, one of the story-tellers 100 
The well called I 103 
Amipuru 109 
Mabuiag warriors 122 
Wellington Aragu posing as dogai Giz 129 
The Kupamal "landed at Sigain Kup, 
a small cove, armed themselves, and 
climbed up the rocks at the back of 
the beach to an enormous boulder 
which they tried to roll down into 
the sea" 145 

Rock paintings on the under-surface 

of a boulder above Sigain Kup 145, 146 
Outrigger canoe riding at anchor at 

high tide, outside Saibai Village 148 
Low tide off Saibai Village, exposing 

mud flats 151 

Mesea (or Melewal) 152 

Budia (as willy-wagtail) 154 

Aniba Asa, one of the story-tellers 155 

Enosa Waigana, one of the story-tellers 156 

Nima and Poipoi with Binibin 159 

A warrior of Ait 164 
Warriors of Ait obtaining strength 

from Adibuia, the stone that glowed 164 

The partly submerged natural jetty of 
sand and dead coral running out 
from Kagar, at the eastern end of 
Saibai 167 
Wakemab crawling out into the sea 
after being clubbed by two men of 
Ait 170 
Sui (as swamp bird) 175 
Kongasau and Adasakalaig 179 
Baira and Agburug (as man) 187 
Girbar, holding the new varieties of 
sugarcane, taro, and banana which 
she brought back to Saibai from the 
sky 191 
The coconut palm which grew in the 
form of a cross after being struck by 
lightning 191 
Dogai Dagmet 201 
Sibika, with his pronged fish-spear and 
a string of fish 202 

Head of harpoon-spear (wap), with 
harpoon (kuiur) 204 

Poised to jump with his wap and har- 
poon a dugong 205 

Geinau (or deumer), the Torres Strait 
pigeon, eating the fruit of the wild 

plum, ubar (or eneo) 217 
The stone dugong at Samar used in 

making dugong-magic 237 
Bu shells at Waraber arranged round 
the spot at which skulls collected in 

former times have since been buried 267 

Kaubet (black reef heron) 275 

Sir (white reef heron) 275 

Sabei, or bologor (unicorn fish) 275 

Put (decorative armband worn on up- • 

per arms) 286 
Kadik (bracer, or armguard) 286 
Meriam ares le (fighting man) 287 
A Meriam wearing the head-dress, dari 293 
The islands of Waier and Dauar photo- 
graphed from Murray Island 295 
Dela Mopwali, one of the story-tellers 296 
Deger, or dangal (dugong) 299 
The island of Dauar, showing the two 
hills woven by the sisters, Sidipuar 
and Apinini 300 
Marou, one of the story-tellers 301 
Peibri sor (stingray) 301 
Pilauar (as sea-bird) 302 
Serar (as sea-bird) 302 
Dau Tom standing behind Tagai's 
canoe (the long black stone) and 
Kareg (the red stone) at the edge of 
the reef at Las 305 
Tup (a sardine, of the kind known as 

Kos) 306 
Weres (sardine scoop) 306 
Head of a man wearing larerkep (orna- 
mental "fish-eyes") 307 
Bozar (crested mud goby) 308 
Gas (mudskipper) 308 
Wirwir (mud-hopper) 308 
Paris (Long Tom) 308 

Nageg (as triggerfish) 309 

Geigi (as Great trevally) 309 

Wrapped bananas 311 

Zirar (as lizard) 315 

Monan (as lizard) 315 

Ab (as fish) 315 

Wid (as fish) 315 

Dibadiba (a small land-bird) 315 

Kultut 318 

Paimi and Nawanawa (as birds) 320 

Melpal umen (eel) 322 

Beizam (hammerhead shark) 328 

Arti (octopus) 329 

Larerkep (ornamental "fish-eyes") 330 
Deumer le (Torres Strait pigeon man), 

a Malo dancer 331 

Seuriseuri (starfish) 331 
An impression of one of the two masks 
exhibited at Malo-Bomai initiation 

ceremonies 335 

Wasikor, sacred Malo drum 335 

Keparem le (stick man), a Malo dancer 336 

Bezar (a small fish) 338 
Neis keremkerem kaba (banana plant, of 
the kind which bears two heads of 

bananas simultaneously) 339 

Kamosar (epaulette shark) 339 

At (blue-spotted stingaree) 340 

Goar (cowtail or fantail ray) 340 

Said (as womer, the man-o'-war hawk) 341 

Said (as man) 341 

Kos (as sardine) 342 

Abob (as blowfly) 342 

Neud (a green fish) 342 

Warib (as garfish) 342 
Repair of a stone fish-trap (sat) at 

Murray Island, February 1967 343 

Au kosher (as fish) 344 

Tole (a small brown sea-bird) 345 

Karor ("curlew") 345 
The yam, ketai (or kutai) 346, 347 

Old-style canoe 347 

Turtle of the kind known as nam 347 

Kiriskiris ti (a small land-bird) 348 

Beuger (booby) 348 

Noreb ti (Sun bird) 349 

Deo (as sea-bird) 350 

The leaf of wez, a croton 354 
Te pipi and Te sabersaber roasting 

ager in their earth-oven 355 

Maiu (golden trevally) 357 

Keupai (a fish, the bar-checked Wrasse) 362 

Baur (a three-pronged fish spear) 363 
Two of the many puleb (rudely worked 
pumice figures) at Leiwag, Murray 

Island 364 

Uzer (canoe paddles) 367 


Torres Strait xvi 
Muralag (Prince of Wales Island), 

Gialag (Friday Island), Nurupai 

(Horn Island) 4 
Nagi (Mt. Ernest Island), Mua (Banks 

Island), and Badu (Mulgrave Island) 18 

Mabuiag (Jervis Island) 82 

Dauan 126 

Saibai 150 

Route taken by Nima in Binibin 159 

Boigu (Talbot Island) 206 

Masig (Yorke Island) 244 
lama (Turtlebacked Island or Yam 

Island) 250 

Waraber (Sue Island) 268 

Ugar (Stephens Island) 274 

Erub (Darnley Island) 282 

Mer (Murray Island) 294 

Dauar and Waier 294 


The maps of Mabuiag, Dauan, Saibai, Boigu, 
Waraber, lama, Masig, Ugar, Mer, and 
Waier and Dauar have been prepared from 
original sketches made during my stays at 
those islands. In every case I had help from 
an Islander with the outline and principal 
physical features. 

I acknowledge with gratitude the expert 
help given me by the Director of National 
Mapping, Mr. B. P. Lambert, which en- 
abled me to obtain an accurate outline of 
Mua, Badu, and Nagi, and of Erub. 

However, the islands of Torres Strait are 
not big islands, and for most of them maps 
on a scale large enough to permit the detail 
necessary for precise location of the physical 
features and "story" places mentioned in the 
myths and legends are not available — indeed, 
the reliability diagram on the most recent 
maps of Torres Strait (1968), prepared as 
part of the national mapping programme, 
marks the greater part of the region as "fair" 
only. But Torres Strait embodies a people's 
legends and history, and because the old 
men who still remember the names of places 
which have a meaningful part in their Island 
heritage grow fewer with each succeeding 
year, it seemed necessary to record those 
places as best I could — with the help of the 
Islanders — while there still remained oppor- 
tunity to do so. 




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I I 




Perhaps no space of 3A° length, represents 
more dangers than Torres' Strait- out, with 
CdutiOM And perseverance^ the captains 
a^rcV PortlocK proved them to be 5crmocntab/e 

^g'ir /Vathew Flinders ) 

DC i 


ir - 







1 14.1* 

/7 V I142* 


i IAS* VO 




The myths and legends contained in this book were recorded and translated at the places which^src uiidertincd. 


Four years ago, when the people of the Torres Strait Islands told me that 
they feared their old stories were being forgotten, I promised my help in 
the task of gathering them together. If I could do this and with the Islanders' 
help translate them and put them in a book, the old tales would live on 
and be always available — not only to the Islanders, wherever they might be, 
but to all others with an interest in them. 

For a generation or more, Torres Strait Islanders have been dispersing 
to mainland Australia. Torres Strait Islanders' children, born since their 
parents left their island homes, have never seen — and may never see — the 
islands of their forbears. And increasingly, people in mainland com- 
munities would like to know the background of the Torres Strait Islanders 
who live and work among them. 

Ask a Torres Strait Islander where he comes from, and he will name one 
island. After further questioning you will learn that he calls that island 
"my homeland" and refers to those who have been born to it as "my 
countrymen". Look for that island in your atlas, and you are hardly likely 
to find it. In all probability you will see nothing but a narrow, empty sea 
passage separating the most northerly tip of Australia from New Guinea — 
nothing to indicate that the strait is actually a maze of reefs and rocks and 
islands. This fact is only to be learned by reference to large-scale maps and 
charts of the region itself. "Perhaps no space of 3^° in length, presents more 
dangers than Torres' Strait", wrote Flinders in his Introduction to A 
Voyage to Terra Australis. 

Nor will you find it easy to obtain accurate facts and figures about the 
island in which you have become interested, nor, for that matter, about 
any of the other islands in Torres Strait, for there are very few books about 
Torres Strait to be had from a bookshop. There is a fascinating wealth of 
material upon which to draw, but it is contained for the most part in books 
which have long been out of print and in Government records. You will 
have to conduct your own research at libraries in the capital cities if you 
want to satisfy your curiosity about the Torres Strait Islands and the people 
who belong to them. 


1. Flinders, in the Introduction to A 
Voyage to Terra Australis. 

2. Memoir concerning the Chagos and 
Adjacent Islands (London, 1786), p. 4. 

3. The manuscript of Cook's Journal is 
in the National Library, Canberra. 

MacGillivray obtained the Island 
name Bedanug for Possession Island 
(Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. 
Rattlesnake [1852], II, 315). For 
Bedanug we should possibly under- 
stand Bedalag, since "1" is often 
rendered "n" in Island speech, and 
"a" (as in "ah") as "u" (as in "hut"). 
Lag means island. 

4. Queensland Statutes, Vol. I (Brisbane, 

So it is necessary at this point to introduce the general reader to Torres 
Strait itself and to define the region in which the stories in this book 
originated. This can be done quickly by quoting a few facts from historical 

Torres and Prado, in 1606, made the first European passage through 
Torres Strait, but it is to "our celebrated captain James Cook" that credit 
goes for "clearing up the doubt which, till then, existed, of the actual 
separation of Terra Australis from New Guinea" when he "passed through 
Endeavour's Strait, between Cape York and the Prince of Wales' Islands" 
in 1770. 1 And to Cook also we owe our first description of the Melanesian 
people of the island world of Torres' Strait (as it was termed for the first 
time by Alexander Dalrymple in 1769). 2 For, in Cook's Journal, written in 
his own hand, under the entry made off Possession Island 3 for Wednesday, 
22 August 1770, appear these words: ". . . one man who had a bow and a 
bundle of Arrows, the first we have seen on this coast . . .", and a little 
further on: ". . . two or three of the Men we saw Yesterday had on pretty 
large breast plates which we supposed were made of Pearl Oysters Shells, 
this was a thing as well as the Bow and Arrows we had not seen before ..." 

On his second voyage through Torres Strait in 1792, Bligh took pos- 
session of "all the islands seen in the Strait, for his Britannic Majesty 
George III". Eighty-seven years later, in the Schedule to the Queensland 
Coast Islands Act of 1879, we have a clear definition of the boundaries of 
Torres Strait: "Certain Islands in Torres Straits and lying between the 
Continent of Australia and Island of New Guinea that is to say all Islands 
included within a line drawn from Sandy Cape northward to the south- 
eastern limit of Great Barrier Reefs thence following the line of the Great 
Barrier Reefs to their north-eastern extremity near the latitude of nine and 
a half degrees south thence in a north-westerly direction embracing East 
Anchor and Bramble Cays thence from Bramble Cays in a line west by 
south (south seventy-nine degrees west) true embracing Warrior Reef 
Saibai and Tuan Islands thence diverging in a north-westerly direction so 
as to embrace the group known as the Talbot Islands thence to and em- 
bracing the Deliverance Islands and onwards in a west by south direction 
(true) to the meridian of one hundred and thirty-eight degrees of east 
longitude." 4 

By that time pearl-shelling and beche-de-mer industries were well 
established in the area; the London Missionary Society had been at work 
for eight years (since July 1871) ; and the Queensland Government had 
already assumed responsibility for the well-being of the people of the 
islands in Torres Strait. 

The stories in this collection were obtained at thirteen islands, all of 
which are protected and reserved by the Queensland Government for the 


Torres Strait Islands people. As a result, the Islanders, despite nearly a 
century of continuous and increasing contact with European ways and 
thought, have been able to retain unbroken links with their past. They have 
never been ousted from the islands to which they belong. These are the 
people who have made a conscious effort, sustained over a period of four 
years, to pass on to the general reader, whether he live in Torres Strait or 
elsewhere, as much as is possible at this late date of that part of their 
heritage which is embodied in legend and myth. 

Between 1965 and 1968 I spent the equivalent of two full years in 
Torres Strait. The islands at which I stayed were Boigu, Saibai, Dauan, 
Mabuiag, Badu, and Mua on the Western side of the Strait; Sue, Coconut, 
Yam, and Yorke Islands in the Central group ; and Stephens, Darnley, and 
Murray Islands in the Eastern division. If we except those in the immediate 
vicinity of the administrative centre, Thursday Island, they are the only 
inhabited Torres Strait Islands today. They are home for nearly 4,000 
people. 5 

I visited all these islands at least four times, and I also stayed at Bamaga 
near the tip of Cape York Peninsula, which became the home of many 
Islanders from Saibai shortly after the end of World War II. The length of 
my stay at an island at any one time varied from two and a half months, as 
at Murray Island in 1968, to a day or a night, as at Stephens and Coconut 
Islands in 1966 and 1967. It was impossible to judge beforehand how long 
it would take to collect the stories at an island. Some islands proved rich 
in stories, some poor. Besides, the climate for story-telling varied from 
island to island. It was necessary for the people and me to get to know each 
other at each island in turn, and I found that without taking time to obtain 
at least a working knowledge of two languages — three, if one counts 
Island pidgin — I could not come within reach of providing an adequate 
translation. Rather more was involved than arriving at an island, saying, 
"The people at other islands have told me their stories for inclusion in a 
book, so that they will not be lost. Will you do the same, please?" and then 
setting up my tape recorder. 

The student and the specialist have long had available to them the stories 
collected by Haddon, leader of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition 
to Torres Strait in 1898. These appear in the published reports of the 
expedition, together with summaries of the incidents of anthropological 
significance in each tale. 

Regrettably, it was not possible for members of the Cambridge Expe- 
dition to concentrate attention on more than two islands, Mer and 
Mabuiag, because their visit was limited to four months. They were, 
therefore, unable to attempt collections of stories from every island in- 
habited at that time. In the final volume of the Reports (Cambridge, 1935), 

5. The distribution of the population is: 
Boigu, 320; Saibai, 280; Dauan, 130; 
Mabuiag, 230; Badu, 650; Mua, 400 
(at Kubin, 150; at Gerain, 20; at St. 
Paul's Mission, 230); Sue Island, 90; 
Coconut Island, 120; Yam Island, 
300; Yorke Island, 160; Stephens 
Island, 19; Darnley Island, 300; 
Murray Island, 500. There are be- 
tween 500 and 559 Saibai Islanders 
(chiefly) at Bamaga. (These figures 
were given by the Director of Abori- 
ginal and Island Affairs, June 1969.) 

6. Reports of the Cambridge Anthropo- 
logical Expedition to Torres Straits 
(Cambridge, 1901-1935), Volumes 
I-VI. Many references to this work 
follow, so the shortened title Reports 
is used hereafter. 


7. The Folk-Tales of the Kiwai Papuans 
(Helsingfors, 1917). 

8. Ray, the linguist who accompanied 
the Cambridge Anthropological Ex- 
pedition (Reports, III, 512). 

9. Capell (A Survey of New Guinea Lan- 
guages, Sydney University Press, 
1969), describes the language of the 
Eastern Islands of Torres Strait as 
numeral-dominated, and classifies it 
as belonging to a sub-type of event- 
dominated Non-Austronesian lan- 
guages of New Guinea. 

Haddon includes summaries of stories recorded by Landtman 7 and other 
stories which were sent to him because of his lifelong interest in all matters 
concerning Torres Strait. 

Having had no training in anthropology I can offer no more than 
translations, and, indeed, I could not have made even this contribution had 
it not been for the constant help and supervision I received from Islanders. 
Between us we have attempted to preserve as faithfully as we were able 
every tale that is remembered and told in Torres Strait today. It is pleasing 
to report that no important story collected by Haddon has been forgotten 
during the seventy years that have elapsed since the Cambridge Expedition 
visited Torres Strait, and, in addition, that it has been possible to add to the 
number of myths and legends which can be saved for the Islands people. 

With the exception of the slight body of tales obtained from Yam and 
Yorke (Central Islands), and Erub and Ugar (Eastern Islands), where pidgin 
is spoken by most people, all the stories in this book were first told and 
recorded in one or other of the two languages of Torres Strait, Mabuiag 
and Meriam. Those from all the Western Islands were told in Mabuiag, 
which "has been shown to have relations in structure to the Australian" 
language; 8 and those from the Eastern island, Mer, were told in Meriam, 
which is a very complicated Non-Austronesian language belonging to the 
Kiwai group of languages (of the Fly River mouth and neighbouring 
coast of Papua). 9 In former times, the language spoken in the Central 
division was a dialect of Mabuiag. 

The stories have seemed to arrange themselves in two main groups, 
those from the Western Islands, and those from the Eastern Islands. In 
between are the stories, slight in number, from the Central Islands, which, 
with one exception — a story, "Sigai", which has a religious significance that 
links it with Mer, an Eastern Island — are akin to those from the Western 
Islands. So, the overall organization of the book follows this pattern: first, 
the big group of stories from the Western Islands; second, the small 
collection from the Central Islands; and third, those from the Eastern 
Islands. This arrangement also happens to correspond generally with the 
broad physical divisions of the islands of Torres Strait, which, moving 
from west to east, comprise the old, high islands, as well as the two low, 
mangrove-fringed islands, Saibai and Boigu, of West Torres Strait; the 
coral cays of Central Torres Strait; and the newer, richer islands of volcanic 
origin of East Torres Strait. 

Within each of the three main sections, the stories have been arranged 
island by island, the reason for this being that with few exceptions stories 
are limited in their telling to their island of origin. 

From the beginning, I found maps necessary for my own understanding 
of the stories, so maps have been included for those who are not familiar 


with the region : a general map of the world of the Island people, and a map 
of each island from which stories originated. All but three were prepared 
from sketches made while the work of recording and translation was going 
on; it must be understood that they are approximate only. Without them, 
however, it would be very difficult to follow action precisely located. 

At some islands, artists chose to help in the collection of their myths and 
legends by illustrating them with water-colours or in pencil or ink; in 
addition I used the camera freely wherever I went during the recording of 
the stories. So, in one way or another, all the illustrations in this book were 
obtained in Torres Strait during the course of the project. 

In writing words from each of the Island languages my ear has been my 
only guide. The vowel sounds I heard seemed similar to those in German, 
and therefore I adopted the German spelling of vowels whenever I 
attempted to take down words in Mabuiag or Meriam. 

Mention has been made of stories being generally limited in the telling 
to their islands of origin. I also found that, except in places where the old 
social structure had completely broken down, further limitations were 
imposed. In the Western Islands, stories belonged to individual patricians, 
whose members alone had the right to learn them. 10 In the Eastern Islands 
the situation was more complex. Stories could be owned by patricians, 
subdivisions of patricians (patrisubclans or patrilineages), or by indi- 
viduals. 11 They represented knowledge inherited from the past for the 
groups and persons owning them, and in each case were restricted to 
specific group- or individually held territories. Both in the Western 
Islands and the Eastern Islands, however, only one person in a group was 
generally acknowledged to know the stories belonging to that group 
sufficiently well to be able to tell them, and ideally that person was the 
eldest male in the senior line of descent. At three Western Islands, Saibai, 
Dauan, and Boigu, before the men told their stories they "called the blood" 
of their ancestors, in some cases as far back as six or seven generations, each 
thereby giving proof of his undoubted authority to speak for his people. 

When a man told a story in the Western Islands he told it complete. At 
Murray Island (in the Eastern group), it sometimes happened that a man 
telling a story said: "There is another part, too. You will have to ask ... to 
tell it, because it happened on his land." Trespass is abhorred at this island. 
Everything is owned, land, reefs, rocks, stones, stars, winds, tracts of sea, 
and the names of those things are severable and may be separately trans- 
ferred. A man may speak for what is his, no more. When a girl marries 
she usually receives dowry land which passes to her son and his heirs and is 
thus lost to the patrilineage which originally owned it. Therefore, where 
the action of a story spread over a number of severally owned properties, 
the story had to be gathered piecemeal, with every one of the several 

10. I was told at some Western Islands 
that in former times young men were 
taught their patrician's stories during 
the period of their initiation. 

11. One story, Malo, belonged to all at 
Murray Island who claimed descent 
in the male line from the putative 
first inhabitants of that island. The 
full details were revealed to the young 
men when they were initiated into 
the religion which derived from 


12. Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S 
Rattlesnake (1852). 

owners contributing the part tied to his land, if it was to be obtained 
accurately in full. It was tantalizing to be given detail missing from a story 
and then be enjoined not to use it: "You can't say that. The owner will say 
it's my lies." With one of the stories, "Terer", the owner — of the land, 
and the knowledge tied to that land — was absent from Murray Island at 
the time and I never found him. Thus the story has had to be printed with- 
out a detail which I believe was correct anyway. A woman's eldest brother 
may bestow a name owned by his lineage on one of her children. I came 
across two instances where stories had been alienated from the names of 
their central figures at some time in the past. In one, the name survives as 
the personal name of a man who received it as a gift from the previous 
owner, but the story has disappeared, presumably either through failure of 
an owner to provide himself with an heir or failure of an owner to relay it. 
"Nothing is lost from Murray Island," people said. "It is all here. It 
belongs to someone." That may once have been so. But today, young 
men go off to live on the southern mainland and with their going destroy 
the ability of Murray Island to retain knowledge inherited from the past. 
When both the owner of the name of a stone (which was once a man) and 
the owners of the several parts of the story about the man have gone, what 
is the stone — to them, to their heirs, and to those who stay? I put this 
question to a Murray Islander. He replied: "The stone still belongs to 
Murray Island. It has an owner or a caretaker. It is known and precious." 

In Torres Strait, until the last member of a clan or a lineage passes away, 
or an individual owner dies without an heir, stories thus owned are not 
freed to the rest of the island population. If any of these stories live on, they 
will do so shorn of their earlier, elaborate, authentic detail. When a whole 
island is denuded of its people, all its stories may vanish. These have always 
been lonely islands, where no man had a place except he was born to it. 
And when all are gone from that place, who knows its past? For whom has 
it meaning? Nevertheless a few homeless stories survive. 

One of these, the first traditional tale to be recorded in Torres Strait, 
was obtained by MacGillivray 12 at Muralag (Prince of Wales Island) in 
1849. It was told to me at another island nearly one hundred and twenty 
years later by the grandson of a Muralag man, long after the Muralag 
people as such had ceased to exist. 

The fact that ownership of stories is restricted to an island and to groups 
and individuals within an island accounts in part, I think, for the com- 
paratively few variants obtained. Trespass in the field of another's stories is 
rare. Besides, there is no feeling of personal involvement in someone else's 
stories; they are not a part of oneself as one's own stories are; they are of 
little moment in comparison with one's own. Furthermore, any departure 
from the version told by the person who has the right to transmit a story 


is generally denounced as "lies". These are additional reasons why variants 
would not easily occur. 

I often wished that the Islanders could place their own stories in the 
publisher's hands direct, with no one else between them and the printed 
word. Torres Strait is the Islanders' world, and still, today, I think no one 
really belongs there but the Islanders themselves. They are the fish in the 
sea, the turtle, the birds; the islands, the reefs, the hills, the rocks and 
stones; the stars in the sky, which cause thunder and lightning, wind and 
rain. Torres Strait is its people of the past, the ghosts of its dead, its super- 
natural beings who are not unlike Island man himself in appearance and 
behaviour. Torres Strait was created by and from its people — a world that 
was very largely self-contained. 

It is not easy to generalize from these myths and legends, because they 
vary in content from island to island. Furthermore, the ethnic background 
of the Mabuiag-speaking islands is different from the background of those 
islands where Meriam is spoken. So any generalization must be based on 
the premise that these things are found in Torres Strait, not that these things 
are found at every island. 

I do not know the age of many of the stories, for example those which 
tell of founders of clans, or first people at islands; but others can be fixed 
in time at a certain number of generations ago, and so are comparatively 
recent in origin. All however belong to the old culture, and are told with 
classic simplicity and precision, as statements of fact; they are essentially 
word-pictures of men and women, and of what befell them on their island 

The Islander was a gardener, a fisherman, a hunter of dugong and 
turtle, a fighter. Magic and sorcery, dreams, omens, and premonitions 
permeated his daily living. He was jealous, easily aroused to murderous 
rage, revengeful and merciless. He was a killer, a hunter of heads. Ritual, 
ceremony, mourning, decoration of the body, dance and song kept him 
busy. He was proud, resourceful, and independent. He knew the sea as well 
as he knew his island and its surrounding reef. If the tales may be taken as 
evidence, there was little gaiety or fun in the Islander's life. 

With his own hands, he fashioned new animal forms from plants and 
trees, and gave them being by entering them. He went inside existing 
animals and birds of land and sea, possessed them for a while, and came 
out — all this without abandoning his human form and personality. He 
could simply become a fish, or a bird, or an animal. 

There is a story from one of the Western Islands of a brother and sister 
who changed their human form to that of a snake ; they were first people 
(ancestors) of a clan which had the snake as its totem animal. Another 
story, also from a Western Island, tells of a man who, belonging to the 


13. So called by Ray. "There is no title 
to the manuscript, but Pasi concludes 
with the statement: 'Kaka ditimeda 
abele jiauali detali abele meb ra nei 
Ogos 4, 1898, a kara nei Passi', i.e. 
I began this book write this month 
of name August 4, 1898, and my 
name Passi 1 ." Ray, Reports, III, 228. 
(The footnote reads: "Elsewhere he 
spells his name Pasi.") Today, all Aet's 
descendants spell their surname Passi. 

dugong clan in life, spent the first night after his death as a dugong. This 
man died about 1872, shortly after the London Missionary Society estab- 
lished itself at his island. 

There were more classes of supernatural beings in the Western Islands 
than in the Eastern. One creature, the dogai, crops up at every island in the 
western chain. 

The dogai was female, sharp-featured and long-eared — she used one ear 
to sleep on and the other as a cover for her body. She was always looking 
out for a man to grab as a husband. She appears to have been sub-human 
in intelligence, but cunning and shrewd. The dogai language was a gib- 
berish of the Islanders' tongue. 

The first attempt by a Torres Strait Islander to preserve the stories he 
knew by writing them out was made by Aet Passi at Murray Island in 
1898. Five of these are printed in Volume III of the Cambridge Reports, 
together with the interlinear translation attempted by the linguist, Ray, 
who accompanied the expedition. Aet used corrupt, mission-taught 
Meriam in writing his stories. The Pasi MS 13 versions are important be- 
cause their author reached manhood before Murray Island came under 
Mission influence. They are, therefore, a true voice from the Meriam past. 
Aet Passi's grandson, George, and I spent many hours on these stories, in 
an attempt to restore them to pure Meriam and obtain full translations. 
These are given. 

Ned Waria of Mabuiag also wrote out stories in his own language for 
Ray in 1898. 

Since then, a different approach to the preservation of its myths and 
legends has been made within Torres Strait, through the composition by 
Islanders of story-songs. These are popular, and are known by everyone 
at the islands where they were composed. 

In this latest attempt by the people of Torres Strait to preserve their 
myths and legends, this time by first recording them on tape in one or 
other of the Island languages and then by themselves assisting at their 
translation into simple English, it has been a privilege and an honour to 
have a part. 

Margaret Lawrie 
14 September 1969 


stories from the 


stories from 

MURALAG Prince of Wales Island 
GIALAG Friday Island 
MURI Mt. Adolphus Island 
NURUPAI Horn Island 

— islands now denuded of their original people, but formerly inhabited by 
Kawalgal (called Kowraregas by MacGillivray , and Kaiwalgal or Kauralgal in 
the Reports of the Cambridge Expedition). 


NGIANGU [Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 2 November 1967] 
(The Origin of Booby Island 1 ) 

Potikain lived by himself at Kupa, a beach on the northern side of Muralag. 
At very high tides he went to the mouth of the creek nearby to spear 
dagai, a black cat-fish which comes in with such tides; at other tides he 
fished off the reef with a line. 

One morning he walked north from Kupa to the point called Mabaigrab 
to throw in his line. All day he got not a single bite. He could not under- 
stand it. "I have good bait," he said. "Why do the fish not take it?" But 
he kept on trying because he needed a fish for his evening meal. 

Late in the afternoon he heard footsteps approaching from the east, and 
when, shortly afterwards, he saw Ngiangu, a giant of a man, trudging 
along in the shallow water close to the beach, he was so terrified that he 
dropped his line and fell flat on his face. Ngiangu, however, walked straight 
past him without glancing in his direction. 

Potikain got to his feet and called after him: "Go! Go! Go! Go!" 

Presently Ngiangu came to a halt and called back to Potikain: "May I 
stay here?" 

"Go! Go! Go! Go!" ordered Potikain. 

Ngiangu walked on. Past the point, Gugubi, he called: "May I stay 

"Go! Go! Go! Go!" ordered Potikain. 

Ngiangu walked across the reef into the blue sea. "May I stay here?" 
he asked. 

"No," replied Potikain, "I can see your hair. Go! Go! Go! Go!" 

Ngiangu waded out till the water came up to his chin. "May I stay 
here?" he begged. 

"Go! Go! Go! Go!" shouted Potikain. "I can still see your hair." 

Far out to the west Ngiangu called once more: "May I stay here?" 

"Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! You may stay there," said Potikain, who could no 
longer see any part of the giant. "Stand firm and stay there for ever. I 
shall remain at this point." 

And at that instant, Ngiangu and Potikain both turned to stone. 

1. Ngiangu is the Islanders' name for 
Booby Island. 


This, the first myth of Torres Strait to be 
recorded by a European, appears in Mac- 
Gillivray's Narrative of the Voyage of 
H.M.S. Rattlesnake (1852), II, 30: 

The only tradition which I heard of occurs 
among the Kowraregas, and is worth men- 
tioning for its singularity. The first man 
created was a giant named Adi, who, while 
fishing off Hammond Island, was caught by 
the rising tide and drowned, Hammond Rock 
springing up immediately after to mark the 
spot. His wives, who were watching at the 
time, resolved to drown themselves, and were 
changed into some dry rocks upon an adja- 
cent reef named after them Ipile, or the wives. 

Of it Haddon wrote {Reports, V, 18): 

I also obtained this tale in 1888 from a 
Muralug man. Unfortunately I did not copy 
it down accurately at the time, and so I cannot 
compare the versions. I was informed that the 
man's name was Waubin. The small rock, 
Kaimilaig, off Turtle Head, Numri (Round 
Island), Palilug (Mecca Reef), and Ipili Reef 
are his wives. The story itself is adi and the 
man too is adi, but it appears to me highly 
improbable that this was also the man's name. 

The version recorded here is a trans- 
lation of the story told by Wees Nawia, 
a man of Muralag descent, in the lan- 
guage of West Torres Strait. He super- 
vised the translation. 

It is of interest that the men of Kubin— 
many of whom have Muralag blood — 
today perform a dance which derives 
from the hero, Waubin. While they 
are dancing, each man holds a replica of 
baidamal baba in his right hand, baidamal 
baba being the fighting weapon which, 
legend has it, was used by Waubin, the 
huge (adi) man who turned into the rock 
known by his name (called Hammond 
Rock by Europeans). (Adi also means 
"story". An adiad is a giant.) 

1. Blue-fish Point (Kiwain). It is directly 
opposite the Hospital on Thursday 

WAUBIN [Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 4 November 1967] 
(The Origin of Hammond Rock) 

Waubin of Muralag (Prince of Wales Island) fought men and killed them. 
He fought because he wanted to fight, he killed because he wanted to kill. 
Fighting and killing were all he ever thought about. 

The weapons he used were kubai (a throwing stick used with a woomera), 
kalak (a spear), and baidamal baba. 

Baidamal baba made all men fear and hate Waubin. This weapon, carved 
from a single piece of wood, was shaped in the middle to fit Waubin' s 
grip. Each end was as deadly as baidam's (a shark's) cruel mouth, because 
its edges were studded with baidam's own teeth. With baidamal baba 
Waubin thrust, parried, hacked, and ripped. 

From his home beside Rabau Nguki, the big waterhole in the centre of 
Muralag, Waubin went to all parts of the island looking for men to kill — 
to Irki, Gaibait, Muiarpui, Dak, lata, and Aiginisan. And he killed men 
who came across in their canoes from Adai (Jardine River, on Cape York 
Peninsula) to visit their friends at Muralag, too. 

As the years went by, Waubin collected many wives, for when he killed 
a man he took the widow back with him to Rabau Nguki. 

One day when he set out to fight he found a man named Kiwain, a man 
as big and strong as himself. But, as always, it proved to be no match, for 
he soon split the man's skull with baidamal baba and the man ran away, 
leaving behind his wife, whom Waubin took to Rabau Nguki. 

Kiwain fled north across the hills until he reached the point of land 1 on 
Muralag closest to Waiben (Thursday Island). There he died and turned 
to stone. 

The next morning Waubin set out for the eastern side of Muralag, taking 
some of his wives with him. Before long he met a man named Badane. 

Now Badane was a very small man who was armed only with a bamboo 
knife (upi) ; yet when Waubin struck at him with baidamal baba he missed 
him completely. Badane darted between Waubin's legs and sliced off his 
right leg at the knee. 

Badane then ran to the point where Kiwain had turned to stone the 
previous day, dived into the sea, and swam to Waiben. From Waiben he 
swam to Kiriri (Hammond Island), and then he, too, turned to stone. 


Wees Nawia of Kubin attired for the 
modern dance which derives from the 
myth, "Waubin". In his left hand he 
holds a replica of baidamal baba. 


With the help of his wives Waubin reached Rabau Nguki. They 
staunched the flow of blood from his knee and cared for him. 

When the flesh had grown over the stump of his leg, Waubin said to his 
wives: "My enemies will kill me if I stay in this place. We will leave our 
home and go to another island." And he led them from Rabau Nguki to 
Badukut on the western side of Muralag, from Badukut to Gialag (Friday 
Island), from Gialag to Palilag (Goode Island), from Palilag to Nomi 
(Round Island), and from Nomi to Koimilai, a point on Kiriri. 

Some of his wives he left at Palilag, others at Nomi. They turned to 

To those who went with him all the way he said: "Stay where you are! 
I am going to deep water to fish." And with baidamal baba clasped firmly in 
his right hand, he walked across the reef into the blue sea outside. 

He liked east best, so, after planting his left leg firmly in the seabed, he 
raised baidamal baba above his head and threw it as far as he could to the 
east. It fell into the sea near Gobau Ngur, a rocky headland of Kiriri, and 
became a reef, its edges sharp and jagged like the teeth of baidam's jaw- 

"Stay where you are! Do not move!" Waubin called to his wives. "I 
am going to stand here for ever. The tide will flow past me from the east 
and from the west, the wind will strike at my head and my chest. Stay 
where you are!" Then he and his wives turned to stone. 

[Saila Miskin gave the following detail at Thursday Island, 
29 July 1969]: 

At the time when Waubin was fighting the people of Muralag, a man 
named Sararai lived on the hill called Kubaiudaizi Pad. He had an only 


One day Sararai and his son went fishing at a lagoon in the reef outside 
Badukut. Sararai said: "If we continue to live at our home on Kubaiudaizi 
Pad, sooner or later we will have to fight Waubin. It would be better for 
us to stay in this lagoon in peace. From here we shall always be able to look 
back at our home." Then he and his son lay down in the lagoon and 
turned to stone. 


[Told at Kubin by Anu Ara, 5 November 1967, and 
Lizzie Nawia, 8 November 1967] 

Long ago there was only one person living on Muralag at Badukut — a 
man. He fished on the reef, caught crabs in the mangroves, and worked in 
his garden. 

One morning a crab nipped him, removing a lump of flesh from his 
thigh. He searched until he found the piece of flesh and took it home, where 
he placed it inside the two halves of a shell called akul. 1 He left it there 
overnight and, the next morning, when he looked inside the akul, found 
that it contained a baby girl. "My daughter," he said. 

The father cared for his child well. When she was old enough, he taught 
her many things — how to find food; how to catch a crab without being 
nipped by it; and, most important, never to go far from her home. "In 
this strange land," 2 he repeatedly warned her, "there are adiad 3 everywhere. 
They will do you an injury if they can." 

Despite all that her father had told her, one day while she was searching 
for crabs she went much further from home than usual. Then she felt 
thirsty, so she kept on walking until she found a coconut palm. She set her 
basket down on the ground and climbed up to pull a coconut for drink — 
and at that moment a female adiad came out of the nearby scrub. "Look up 
at the sun!" said the adiad. "You are going to die. You will never see your 
home again." And with that, the adiad beat the trunk of the palm, and it 
immediately began to grow so tall that the girl was soon hidden from sight 
in a cloud. The adiad then went back into the scrub; but she forgot to take 
with her the length of buz with which she had struck the palm. 

When the sun was low in the sky, his daughter had not returned to 
Badukut, so the father set out to look for her. He followed her tracks until 
he came to a coconut palm, at the foot of which lay her basket and a length 
of buz. He could hear a strange sound which at first he took to be made by 
the branches of a tree scraped together by the wind, but which presently 
he recognized as his daughter's voice coming from far above. 

Bab (ei) 5 (a)! Ialbuz* (ei) (a) 
Tukakar (ia) muiatara 

(Father, I am up here, inside a cloud. Buz lies on the ground 
beneath me), 
the girl was singing. 

1. Akul, bivalve shell, found in man- 
grove swamps, used in former times 
for cutting purposes. 

2. "This strange land", adidiu lag. Adi- 
diu, strange, supernatural; lag, place, 
island, (home-) land. 

3. Adiad, strange beings who are bigger 
than men. 

4. Buz, cane-like stem of the twining 
plant of that name, which was 
formerly used for "bush" rope. 

5. In songs, letters enclosed in paren- 
theses, as (ei), (a), (ia) here, have no 
meaning, but are merely rhythmic 

6. Ialbuz: rope (buz); here (ial). 


The man picked up the length of buz and beat the trunk of the palm with 
it. At once the trunk began to shorten, and before long he could see his 
daughter coming down through the cloud. He called to her, telling her to 
jump down to him, and soon he was holding her in his arms. "I told you 
to stay close to home," he said. 

The girl told him the story of the adiad who had harmed her, and then 
father and daughter returned to Badukut. The girl has been called Ialbuz 
ever since. 


MARI [Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 8 November 1967] 

Zalagi of lata, on the south side of Muralag, was a good hunter of dugong 
and turtle, a good fisherman, and a good gardener, but he was a bad 
husband to his wife, giving her none of the food he obtained and often 
beating her. 

When the woman could no longer endure the harsh treatment meted out 
to her by her husband, she ran away to her father. He agreed that something 
would have to be done about it and enlisted the services of a powerful 
maidalaig (sorcerer). 

The maidalaig set about his business. 

First he took a long feather and anointed it with the extract of two 
scented plants, matua and keri-keri} Then he stuck the quill in the ground 
and addressed magic words to it. Finally he asked it to procure a mari 
(ghost) who would punish Zalagi for his shameful behaviour. 

When he heard a series of grunts, "M! M! M!", he knew that his 
request would be granted. 

The next time that Zalagi went out on the reef to fish he was followed 
by a mari. 

The moment he saw the mari, Zalagi took to his heels, hoping to reach 
the shelter of his home before the mari could catch him. But this he could 
not manage, for no matter how hard he ran, no matter which direction 
he took, the mari was always able to cut him off. 
1. I could not obtain a specimen of Zalagi raced across lata to the creek, Gawa Kasa; crossed it; ran on to 

matua. Keri-keri is a wild ginger. Sirablag; doubled back on his tracks to lata. But there the mari, who had 


been close behind him all the way, caught him and beat him with a 
gurab (a heavy tree-root). 

Zalagi cried out for help. No one answered. He tried to reach his home. 
The mari prevented him from doing so. He ran down to the beach and 
began to swim out to sea. The mari did likewise. 

Zalagi swam to the small island of Koi Pipa. There also the mari caught 
him and beat him with his gurab. When Zalagi, exhausted, stumbled and 
fell to the ground, the mari sat down beside him and watched him. 

As soon as Zalagi could draw breath, he sprang to his feet and rushed 
back to the sea. 

From Koi Pipa he swam to the neighbouring islet, Magi Pipa, but he 
was never more than an arm's length ahead of the mari. Ashore, the mari 
quickly overtook him and this time beat Zalagi until he collapsed on the 
sand, a broken, witless man. 

After a time, Zalagi struggled to his feet and reeled towards the sea. 
His body moved through the water towards lata, his place, lata. He did 
not even know that the mari kept pace with him and beat him all the way. 

When Zalagi crawled ashore at lata, he roused sufficiently to make a last 
desperate effort to reach his home. He died in the attempt. 

The mari looked down at Zalagi, saw that he was dead, and said: 
"M! M! M!" 


NINIA [Told by Danangai Namai at Kubin, 5 November 1967] 

The young boys of Aiginisan used to roam the hills of Muralag daily, 
searching for the honey of the little black bees. 

Whenever they found a tree which had honey inside it, they chopped at 
it with their stone axes till it fell to the ground, split open the trunk, and 
gorged to their heart's content. 

"Utua ninia! Utua ninia! (Honey here! Honey here!)" they sang, as they 
dipped their fingers in "honeybag". 

But, alas, they forgot their duty to the maidalgal, the sorcerers who lived 
by themselves at Maine, not far from Aiginisan. 


One day the boys came upon a splendid tree on the hill called Taimerau 
Pad, so they set to work at once and chopped it down. When they split 
open the trunk and saw that it contained a great deal of honey, they thrust 
in their hands to have it. A moment later the two halves of the tree trunk 
snapped shut. 

The boys stared at each other, shocked dumb. They knew they could 
never free their hands. 

Presently, tears streaming from their eyes, they began to move down 
the hillside, slowly, painfully, dragging the tree behind them. "Utua 
ninia! Utua ninia!" they wailed, "Utua ninia!" 

Before long two of the boys died. Soon all were dead. 

The parents began to worry about their sons, and, as they had still not 
returned when the sun disappeared, the fathers set out to look for them. 

At dawn, swarms of blowflies led them to their children. The men wept. 

Afterwards they dug a hole and buried the bodies in it. Then they re- 
turned to their wives. 

Later, the maidalgal told the people of Aiginisan that they had punished 
the boys for not bringing them a share of the honey that they found. 

MUMAG ,t„ 

[Told by Saila Miskin at Thursday Island, 29 July 1969] 

1. Young men were known as kernge 
while they were receiving their 
training by the sorcerers. One infor- 
mant compared the kod — the head- 
quarters of the sorcerers — with a high 
school: "Young men were educated 
at the kod.''' 

This is a story of Gialag (Friday Island). 

During the period of his training by the sorcerers, 1 every young man was 
obliged to spear fish in the morning at low water and then take his fattest 
fish to the sorcerers at their headquarters, the kod. He was permitted to take 
the rest of the fish to the village and give them to his family. 

One morning, two young men, Dupul and Mumag, stayed behind when 
the others took their fish to the kod, and roasted and ate the fat fish that 
they had speared. Then they took the lean fish to the sorcerers. 

After Dupul and Mumag left the kod, the sorcerers said : "Those two men 
brought us lean fish. They ate the fat fish before they came to us. We will 
have to kill them." 

Next morning all the young men went and speared fish at low water 
as usual. However, when all the rest came in, Dupul and Mumag did not 


turn back, but continued to work their way out along the sandbank which 
runs west from Gialag, spearing fish, taking them to the top of the sand- 
bank and laying them down there, returning to the water and spearing 
more fish, compelled to behave in this fashion by the sorcerers exercising 
their magic power. 

Eventually Dupul and Mumag reached the end of the sandbank and came 
to the deep water. They turned to go back to Gialag, only to see that the 
tide had risen behind them and was running with strength. In a flash they 
understood that they had been punished by the sorcerers for their failure 
to take fat fish to the kod the previous day. With the tide against them, it 
was impossible for them to swim home to their island. There was no- 
where else for them to go. So they buried themselves in the sand where 
they stood. Later they turned to stone. 

Dupul and Mumag are heard every north-west season when the waves 
break over the point of the sandbank at which they buried themselves and 
turned to stone. 

Saila Miskin said that the story of these 
two young men is older than that of 
Ngiangu and Potikain. Ngiangu became 
Booby Island, but when Dupul and 
Mumag buried themselves at the end of 
the sandbank which runs west from 
Gialag (Friday Island), Ngiangu had not 
yet walked out from Muralag (Prince of 
Wales Island) and turned to stone. 


[Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 1 November 1967] 

The people of Muri (Mt. Adolphus Island) lived at Mabi, which is on the 
west coast of that island. 

Daily they worked in their gardens and went out on the reef to fish, 
seldom venturing far from their homes for fear of the markai (ghosts) who 
lived in the big stone called Umai on the eastern slopes of the big hill — all 
but the man Aiwali. 

Aiwali, who was an excellent fisherman, was not satisfied with the 
number of fish that he caught off Mabi. He wanted to try his luck on the 
opposite side of the island, out from the sandbeach called Bag. 1 

The people pleaded with him not to go. They reminded him that he 
would have to pass close by Umai on his way to Bag; they warned him 
again and again of the danger to humans from markai. It made no differ- 
ence. His mind was made up. 

When he went across to Bag the following morning he caught so many 
fish that he determined to fish there and at no other spot. 

1. Bag is still known as an excellent 
place to fish. 


So it came about that Aiwali set out from Mabi each morning with a 
short spear, walked up the hill, and made his way down the other side past 
Umai to Bag. Late in the afternoon he strung the fish he had taken during 
the day and returned by the same route, past Umai, to Mabi. 

The markai of Umai watched Aiwali from the moment he walked past 
their home in the morning till the moment he disappeared over the top of 
the hill in the evening. He was theirs. 

Aiwali grew careless about reaching home before dark, but even so he 
might have gone on living, for one of the markai felt friendly towards him. 

One afternoon when Aiwali stayed longer than usual on the reef, this 
friendly markai went to the top of the hill and called to him: "Aiwali! 
Aiwali! Look at the sun. You must go home. It is getting late." 

Aiwali glanced in the direction from which the voice had come and 
saw the markai. 

"Why does he want me to go home?" thought Aiwali. "It is not very 
late. There are still many fish to be caught. I am not ready to go home." 
So he paid no heed to the warning and went on with his work. It was 
almost dark when he reached Mabi that day. 

The people were angry with him. Whereas on previous occasions they 
had merely scolded him and entreated him not to endanger his life by 
giving the markai an opportunity to catch him, this time they commanded 
that in future he always return long before nightfall. 

Aiwali scarcely heard what they said. "I care nothing about the markai. 
I go to spear fish. I shall continue to return when I have caught all the fish 
I can see to catch," he vowed to himself. 

The next day he went to Bag as usual and speared more fish than ever. 

The afternoon wore on. This time the friendly markai took a companion 
with him to the top of the hill. "Aiwali! Aiwali!" they called. "You 
should go home. The sun is setting." Aiwali speared another fish for reply. 

Then the friendly markai walked across the reef to Aiwali, grabbed him 
by the ear and said: "Haven't you got ears to hear? Two of us called and 
called to you, telling you to go home. It is late. Go home!" Aiwali bent 
down to pick up a fish. For all the notice he took of the markai, the markai 
might not have been there. 

At last Aiwali began to string the day's catch. "It is too late now," 
said the friendly markai. "Look at the beach." Aiwali looked at the shore, 
saw many rows of markai standing at the water's edge, and was afraid. 

He ran in across the reef, forced his way through the waiting markai and 
sped up the hill. Sometimes the markai caught up with him and scratched 
him and spat on him as they tried to cut off his escape, but each time he 
put up a desperate struggle and broke away. He tried to hide from them 
in long grass. It was no use, for they found him at once. In vain the friendly 


markai pleaded with his fellows to spare this human, but they paid him no 
heed. This man was theirs and they meant to have him. 

At length Aiwali reached the top of the hill and began to run down to 
Mabi. It was then that the markai captured him. One of them jabbed a 
finger in each of Aiwali's ears and jeered: "You wouldn't listen to your 
markai friend! You wouldn't listen to your markai friend!" 

Close to Mabi the markai loosed their hold of Aiwali and vanished, but 
by that time he was close to death. As the people of Mabi ran to meet 
Aiwali they saw that he was covered with blood and spittle. When they 
reached him he was dead. 

WAIABA [Told by Ibab Aken of Nurupai at Thursday Island, 

29 July 1969] 

This is a story of Nurupai (Horn Island). 

At Iwiziu Kula, not far from the point on Nurupai called Kausar, there 
once lived a man named Waiaba. 

Waiaba was expert at marking dugong, knowing exactly where to put 
a narapat. 1 He could recognize the spot at which a dugong had left off 
grazing during the night, and, as that was the spot at which the dugong 
would resume grazing the following night if the tide were suitable, that 
was where he placed a narapat. He used to examine the reef early in the 
morning for newly-made tracks and build his naiat (hunting platform) 
later in the day. He was the only man at Nurupai who knew how to build 
a naiat. 

Waiaba always shared the dugong he harpooned with the people who 
lived in the village not far from Iwiziu Kula. Sometimes, quite unin- 
tentionally, he gave a smaller portion to this person than to that when he 
was cutting up. Then those who had received less than others grumbled, 
believing themselves to have been treated unfairly. 

One day, some men who were dissatisfied with the size of their portions 

of dugong meat became so angry that they decided to kill Waiaba. When 

he ran away, they chased him round the island above high water mark 

with their spears. He crossed Boigu Kasa, Ngogodania Kasa, and Kuipidal , 

j , . ° .« , i ■ i • Narapaf, the pointed stick {vat) used 

Kasa, and ran around Garagar, but there the men who were hunting him to mark the spot in the reef ^ rass {nar) 

caught him and killed him. where a dugong left off feeding. 


Dugong-hunter with harpoon-spear {wap) and rope (amu) standing on platform (nat) Artist Kala Waia 

story from 

NAGI Mt. Ernest Island 


[Told by Frank Mills at Thursday Island, 24 July 1969] 

Naga, head man of Nagi (Mt. Ernest Island), lived in a hole in the ground 
underneath a big boulder on top of Kai Pad (Mt. Ernest). His people lived 
at the southern end of the island in the scrub at the foot of Kai Pad. Both 
Naga and the men whom he led lusted to kill and take heads. These they 
stored under a tree at Buzan, a sacred place surrounded by giant bu shells. 1 

No enemy ever made a surprise attack on Nagi, for by day Naga kept a 
constant look-out from the top of Kai Pad, and at night, the men left their 
homes in the scrub and watched from the beach. Mualgal 2 who hoped to 
land in the dark were appropriately received. 

When Naga signalled from the top of Kai Pad that enemy canoes were 
approaching Nagi, his men went at once to the sacred place at Buzan. 
There they put on their fighting gear and obtained magical strength for the 
battle to come. Then they took up their positions as Naga directed. 

Naga went down to the beach alone as the canoes ran in. Seeing him, 
the enemy warriors expected his men to be hidden in the scrub behind him 
and they advanced towards it. Naga, however, always ordered his men to 
conceal themselves to right and to left of him. At his whistled command, 
they converged on the enemy and took them completely by surprise. 

Few hostile visitors to Nagi escaped with their lives, for Naga's strategy 
never failed to rout them utterly. And after every raid, the Nagi men cut 
off the heads of the enemy dead and took them to the tree at Buzan, where 
they celebrated their victory. 

The Nagi men had no canoes of their own, but Naga could always 
obtain canoes whenever canoes were needed. He wore a headband with 
two pelican feathers stuck in it. These feathers, when thrown by him into 
the sea, magically transformed themselves into canoes which carried the 
men of Nagi to wherever they wanted to go and fight. When the men 
returned to Nagi and stepped ashore, the canoes became feathers and Naga 
replaced them in his headband before he climbed up to his home on Kai 

Naga led his men to Mua (Banks Island) many times in the feather 
canoes, but, because some of his followers fell to Mua clubs at each visit, 
the number of fighting men at his command eventually dwindled to an 
alarming extent. He had, therefore, to abandon the idea of carrying the 
fight to the enemy and induce the enemy to come to him. 

1. Bu shell, the Australian Trumpet 
Shell, Syrinx aruanus Linne. 

2. Mualgal, the people of Mua (Banks 
Island) . 


He had a big drum, and when he beat it the sound travelled to many 
islands — to Mua, Badu, Mabuiag and Muralag. Hearing it, men at those 
islands believed that a feast was in progress at Nagi and they would be 
able to take the men of Nagi by surprise. Too late they learnt that Naga's 
drum had been beaten to lure them to Nagi. Most of the men who 
answered the call of Naga's drum had their heads cut off. 

The pile of heads under the tree at Buzan grew in size for a long time. 
After every victory, the men sat round the sacred place and boasted and 
drank from shared coconuts. 

But at last the Mualgal came to understand Naga's tricks, that of luring 
them to Nagi with his drum, and the surprise attack from each side of him 
by his men. The next time they sent war-canoes to Nagi, only one canoe 
ran in towards Naga ; the other canoes separated and approached from two 
sides behind Naga's men, whom Naga, as always, had ordered to hide to 
his right and his left in the scrub. Few men of Nagi survived this attack by 
the Mualgal. Naga was one of them. 

The Mualgal used the same tactics on another occasion and killed nearly 
every one of the Nagilgal. 3 Naga escaped and ran up Kai Pad, the Mualgal 
at his heels. He had nearly reached his home under the big boulder when 
he was struck down. The Mualgal cut off his head and took it to Mua. 
3. Nagilgal, the people of Nagi. His body turned to stone. 

[After finishing the story, Frank Mills added this detail]: 

About eighty years ago, my father ordered his workmen to bring Naga 
from the top of Kai Pad and stand him upright on the beach in front of the 
new village. He is still there today, a solid block of stone, approximately 
seven feet high and two feet thick, a man with two legs, two arms, belly, 
chest, and back, but no head, having lost it before he turned to stone. 

Where Naga lay on top of Kai Pad a waterhole has formed. It is approxi- 
mately seven feet long and two feet deep. It has been given the name, 
Nagan Nguki — Naga's water. 


stories from 
MUA Banks Island 

Saulal time, the season of mating turtle 

[Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 
31 October 1967] 

At Arkai on the island of Mua (Banks Island) there once lived a man 
named Zangagudan and his two wives, Takamulai and Buziauwar. Every 
day they either searched for kutai and bua and mapet 1 in the bush or fished 
on the reef. They used to cook their food in an amai (earth-oven). 

"Turtle-fast time" (the season of mating turtle) arrived, and one day 
they saw a turtle-pair (saulal) drifting outside in the sea. The two women 
urged their husband to try and bring in the female turtle, but Zangagudan, 
who was not a strong man, protested that he could not do it alone. "Then 
try and find someone to help you," said his wives. 

Zangagudan set out from Arkai and walked along the beach. Just beyond 
Mipa he called out: "Does anyone live here?" There was no reply. He 
called again: "Does anyone live here?" This time a voice answered from 
Tuta, not far away, and soon afterwards Karakarkula appeared. 

Karakarkula was a giant. He had ferns (karakar) growing all over his 
body. "What do you want?" he asked Zangagudan. So Zangagudan told 
him about the turtle and asked for his help in catching it and bringing it 
ashore. "Wait here," said Karakarkula, and then he took a few strides, 
picked up the turtle and put it on his shoulder, and returned just as quickly 
as he had gone. 

Zangagudan was very happy. "We should cook this turtle straight 
away," he said. An amai was made, Zangagudan cut the flesh from the 
shell, and Karakarkula drank the blood that collected in the shell while 
Zangagudan had been cutting up. Then Zangagudan replaced the meat in 
the shell and set the whole in the amai to cook. 

Karakarkula felt sleepy. "Do you mind if I have a rest?" he asked 
Zangagudan. "Not at all," replied Zangagudan. Soon Karakarkula was 

He was still snoring when the turtle was cooked. Zangagudan opened 
the amai, removed the best cuts from the carapace, and hurried back with 
them past Mipa to his wives at Arkai. 

Takamulai and Buziauwar were very happy to see him return with the 
cooked turtle-meat. "We had better eat it at once," said Zangagudan. 
"Karakarkula will be very angry when he wakes up and finds I left only 
dry meat for him. He might come and look for me." 

1. Kutai, bua, mapet, three varieties of 
yam. Mapet is very stringy. 


Zangagudan was right. When Karakarkula went to the amai and saw the 
tough shoulder-meat, he was very angry indeed. He ate a little of it, and 
then he set out for Arkai. 

Zangagudan and his wives heard the thunder of the giant's footsteps. 
"What are we going to do?" asked Takamulai and Buziauwar. 

Zangagudan said: "Takamulai, go out into the sea. Buziauwar, walk 
along the beach and then go up to the sandhill. You'll both be safe from 
Karakarkula if you do as I say. I myself will not move from this spot, but 
I shall bury myself in the ground. When Karakarkula reaches Arkai he'll 
see none of us." 

Takamulai walked out into the sea and turned to stone; Buziauwar 
walked to the sandhill and turned to stone; and Zangagudan buried him- 
self deep in the ground and turned to stone. Karakarkula, finding no one 
at Arkai, returned to his part of the island and he, too, turned to stone. 

[After finishing the story, Wees Nawia added this detail]: 

Everyone at Kubin knows where these stones which once were people 
are to be seen. 

For a long time no one knew exactly where Zangagudan had hidden 
himself, but a few years ago when blasting was in progress at Arkai in an 
effort to obtain a good water-supply for Kubin Village, Zangagudan was 
finally located. Because of the rock which Zangagudan became when he 
hid from Karakarkula, the water-supply for Kubin had to be obtained 
elsewhere on the island. 


TIAI [Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 31 October 1967] 

This is a Totalai story. 

Long ago there were only three people at Totalai: a woman named 
Aukam, her brother, Poapun, and their uncle (awade, mother's brother), 
a man named Wawa. Aukam lived not far from the western bank of 
Palga Kasa (a creek), Poapun lived on Totalai Point, and Wawa lived a 
little to the west of Aukam. Wawa's house was the hollow trunk of a 
zanga tree. 

Wawa was a lazy man who did no work. When he woke up in the 


morning he used to smell the fish that Aukam was cooking for her break- 
fast and say: "Greedy Aukam. She gives me nothing to eat. She eats all the 
fish that she catches herself." He hated his niece for failing to provide him 
with food, and he made up his mind to punish her for it. 

Poapun also expected Aukam to share her fish with him. He had a 
beautiful spear, a long straight spear with many sharp prongs (dagulal), 
but he loved it so much that he could not bring himself to use it. Sometimes 
he would take it with him to the reef and occasionally even raise it to 
throw at a fish, but always, at the last moment, he held back, lest its pointed 
prongs be blunted through use. Most of the time he kept it suspended from 
the branch of a tree, and every day he spent much time on his back on the 
ground, his eyes close to the tips of the prongs. "My beautiful spear. Oh, 
my beautiful spear," he thought as he gazed at it. And when Aukam 
passed him on her way home from the reef with a basket full of fish, he 
used to say: "My sister never gives me any of her fish." 

One morning Poapun spent some time on the reef with his spear and, 
as he was coming in to the beach, caught some small fish under a rock with 
his bare hands. He snapped off their heads and rubbed the flesh and blood 
of their bodies round his spear at the junction of shaft and prongs, 1 and then 
he returned to his home and suspended his spear from the tree. 

Presently Aukam came by on her way back to Palga Kasa with the fish 
she had caught that morning. 2 

Soon afterwards she received a visit from Poapun. "My good brother," 
she said, "what brings you here? What do you want?" "I speared very 
few fish this morning, so I came to ask for some of yours," he replied. 
Aukam strung some of the small fish at the top of her basket and gave them 
to Poapun, who then took his leave. 

He did not go very far, however. He had not failed to observe that 
Aukam had bigger fish in her basket than those she gave him, so he walked 
only to the far side of Palga Kasa, hung the string of fish on a mangrove 
tree and turned back. After dipping himself in the creek he went straight 
to Aukam, and she, seeing his dripping body, said: "What's wrong? What 
happened to you?" "The tide is running very strong in the creek, and it 
swept me away. I lost the fish that you gave me," Poapun told his sister. 
Aukam gave him a string of big fish this time, and Poapun set out for his 
place at Totalai. On the way he removed the string of small fish from the 
mangrove tree. "I have plenty offish now," he said. 

After that, Poapun often imposed on his sister. He ate well without 
doing any work. And all the time, Wawa continued to complain about 
Aukam: "You never give me fish. My bad niece, I'll punish you one of 
these days." 

Aukam had a baby boy, Tiai. On those days when she went to her 

1. He did this in order to deceive Au- 
kam and give credence to the tale he 
was abput to tell her. She would not 
fail to notice the condition of his 
spear as she walked past his place. 

2. Aukam fished with a line called wali. 
It was made from fibres of the aerial 
roots of dani (the wild fig-tree). 


3. Tukutuku sagul, a sport in which 
spears are thrown at a target. 

4. Another name for Mabuiag (Jervis 

5. Kibu, the name of the horizon, which 
is regarded as both place and boun- 

garden at Palga, she took him with her in a basket and left the basket 
hanging from a tree while she worked. 

Wawa used to see her on her way to Palga, and one day he followed her 
secretly. As soon as she was out of sight in the garden, he sharpened a stick 
at both ends. Then he removed the basket from the tree and drove the 
pointed stick through Tiai's head, in one ear and out the other. Still 
without making a sound, Wawa hung up the basket and stole back to his 
home in the zanga tree. 

Aukam's digging stick broke — a bad omen. Her thoughts flew to Tiai, 
her son. She ran to the basket, looked inside it, and saw how the child 
had died. Tears rained from her eyes. Later she saw the tracks of the 
murderer. "I never thought my uncle would do such a thing," she said. 

It was mid-day. "My uncle will be asleep by now. I shall visit him," 
said Aukam, who knew his ways. She heard him snoring as she approached 
the zanga tree, and he did not waken while she heaped leaves and branches 
around him and set fire to his home. It was too late to save himself when 
the heat from the flames roused him from sleep. "Who did this?" he 
screamed. "I," said Aukam, "your niece. You killed my son, so I now kill 

Aukam returned to her home beside Palga Kasa and stayed there. She 
kept Tiai in his basket until all the flesh had disappeared from his bones, 
and then she wore his bones round her neck. It took her a long time to 
accept the fact that her son was not on Mua. "Tiai is not on this island," 
she said then. "He may be at Badu (Mulgrave Island). I had better go to 
Badu and look for him." 

When she arrived at Badu she saw some young men engaged in tukutuku 
sagul. 3 She hid behind a bush and watched them for a while. Presently the 
spear thrown by one of the players missed the target and landed in the bush 
behind which she was hiding. The young man went to retrieve it and, 
seeing Aukam, thought her a markai (ghost). "I am no markai, but a woman 
looking for her son, Tiai. Have you seen Tiai?" she said. "Tiai has gone to 
Gumu," 4 the young man told her. 

Aukam went to Gumu. "Tiai has gone to Buru," she was told. She went 
to Buru (Turn-again Island), and from Buru to Dauan and Saibai and, 
finally, Boigu (Talbot Island). At every island she visited she saw young 
men who were playing at tukutuku sagul. At Buru a young man said: 
"Tiai has gone to Saibai." At Saibai a young man said: "Tiai has gone to 

So Aukam went to Boigu, which she knew to be the last island : beyond 
the horizon 5 from Boigu lay the markai world, the land of the spirits. And 
she finally caught up with her son. 

He and a number of other young men were throwing spears at a target, 


and Aukam recognized him as soon as she saw him, because he looked 
different from the other players. She hid behind a bush and watched the 

Presently Tiai threw his spear at the target and missed completely. The 
spear came to rest in the bush behind which Aukam was hiding, and when 
Tiai went to retrieve it he saw Aukam. "Who are you? Are you a dogaiV 
he asked her. "I am a woman, Aukam, who is looking for her son, Tiai," 
she replied. "I am Tiai," Aukam received for answer. 

"I am your mother," Aukam said. "I have come from Mua. These are 
your bones at my neck. You died at Mua a long time ago." So Tiai 
learned that he was a ghost, and for a while he stood very still in one place. 

The young men with whom Tiai had been playing tukutuku sagul saw 
him engaged in conversation, but they could not see the person to whom 
he was speaking. They began to grow impatient at the interruption to their 
sport. Then they saw Tiai wave his spear up and down several times and 
throw it away. 

Tiai walked back to his friends. "Bring me a zazi (skirt)," 6 he said. 
His friends brought the zazi, and he tied it round his waist. "Beat a drum 
for me," he said. One of the men beat the drum for Tiai, and he began to 
dance, not as men dance, but in the manner of markai. 

Presently he ran towards Aukam. The ground opened at his feet. 
"Mother, why do you stand there looking at me? Come to me," he called. 
The woman took a few steps, and then she and her son disappeared inside 
the ground. 

6. Zazi, a skirt worn by women and by 
dancers, which is made from young 
coconut leaves, or from teased 
banana-trunk fibre, or from grass. 

At Boigu, "Aukam and Tiai" is not 
known in detail today. Informants said: 
"That story belongs to Mua. We only 
know a little bit about the end." Actually, 
the account they went on to give of what 
took place at Boigu is less detailed than 
that given by Wees Nawia of Kubin 
(Mua), and they added nothing except 
this point: Aukam found Tiai at Tuam, 
"the home of ghosts". (Tuam is situated 
at the western end of Boigu.) 


[Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 1 November 1967] 

A woman named Murarat lived by herself at Baua. She wove mats, 
tended her garden, and dug in the damp sand on the beach for silel (shell- 
fish). 1 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son whom she named Sik. 

Sik grew into a handsome boy, and, as soon as he was strong enough 
to hold a bow and arrows, his mother made them for him and taught him 
how to use them. She told him to watch the trees and shoot at anything 

that hopped and flew among the branches. When he killed one of these L S(/e/ a small whlte biva]ve shdl 
creatures, he was to bring it to her, and she would cook it. which contains an edible fish. 


The first thing that Sik shot was a tiny lizard (mogai). He took it to 
Murarat. "Mother, is it good to eat?" he asked her. "No, my son," she 
replied, "it is not. Try shooting at creatures that fly about in the trees." 

So Sik went into the bush again, and this time he brought back a very 
small, black bird (mut). "Mother," he said, "is this good food?" "My son," 
said Murarat, "you have shot very good food. I will cook it for you." 

After that, Sik went into the bush every day and shot birds. But Murarat 
worried the whole time he was gone, for fear that he might be stolen by a 
dogai or an adiad (a monstrous bush creature). So she made a pronged 
spear for him and showed him how to throw it, believing that he would be 
safer spearing fish on the reef than wandering alone in the scrub. She praised 
him highly when he speared his first fish and told him to obtain that kind 
of food in future. 

Sik had no fear on the reef and walked further and further from home 
as the days went by. Mururat often told him not to go so far. "You must 
remember that there are dogai and adiad everywhere — they want nothing 
more than a fine youth like you. You must always be on guard against 
them. Never give them the chance to steal you," she cautioned her son. 
Sik paid no attention to her words. 

One day he did not come home until afternoon. Murarat was by that 
time almost beside herself with worry. When he appeared, she spoke 
angrily: "How often have I told you not to go far from this place! I have 
been looking for you everywhere. One of these days a dogai or an adiad 
will surely get you!" 

In point of fact a female ghost named Uga — she was a markai, not a 
dogai or an adiad, but a markai — was already waiting to grab Sik. She had 
caught sight of him several days before when he was spearing a fish and 
immediately decided that she wanted him for husband. 

Sik had no luck at all on the reef one morning, not even seeing a fish, 
though he walked all the way to Gerain Gizu. He would have gone still 
further, but that the tide had begun to flow in over the reef, and he had 
perforce to turn back. After a while he had to come right in and walk close 
to the edge of the mangroves. A fish jumped under one of the trees; he 
threw his spear at it, and, as he bent to pick up spear and fish, Uga leapt 
down from a branch and flung her arms around him. A moment later a 
waterspout enveloped both Sik and Uga and swept them past Baua to 
Parbar. Uga rolled Sik in a mat to hide him from the other markai who 
were staying at Parbar at that time. 

Murarat became frantic with worry about Sik. Late in the afternoon she 
gave him up for lost and began to cry. She cried all night long. 

There was dancing at Parbar that night. The female markai, led by Uga, 
danced first, and, as soon as they had finished, Uga ran to the mat inside 


which she had hidden Sik. "Sik! Are you there, Sik?" she whispered. "I 
am here," replied Sik. Uga hurried back to her companions. 

The male markai were already dancing. Presently, however, a feather 
dropped from the head-dress of their leader. "Stop!" he signalled. "There 
is something wrong — we are, perhaps, being watched by a human. We 
will dance no more tonight." 

Uga, afraid that Sik's presence in their midst would soon be detected by 
the other markai, confided her problem to a female markai, her best friend, 
and showed Sik to her. "What a handsome young man!" said the friend. 
"My husband," said Uga with pride. 

Sik escaped from Parbar the following evening, crawling out of the mat 
as soon as the markai began to dance and then running all the way home to 
Baua. As he passed Totalai, he called a warning to Poapun, 2 and he also 
warned Im, who lived just round the point beyond Totalai. "Run for your 
life," he called to these men, "I'm being chased by markai. They're coming 
after me in a waterspout." That was all he said to Murarat when he reached 
Baua. He and his mother fled to Gerain Pad (a hill) and hid in a hole in a 

Uga discovered Sik's absence shortly after he ran away. When the 
markai dancers complained early of feeling unwell and refused to go on 
dancing, Uga ran to her husband at once, only to find him gone. So she 
then told the whole story to her fellow markai and begged them to help 
her bring him back. They set out immediately. 

Poapun saw a waterspout and said: "Sik was telling the truth." Im saw 
it and said: "Sik was telling the truth." Each took to his heels. 

The waterspout travelled to Baua and, after circling that place, went 
straight to the rock in which Sik and Murarat were hiding. Such was the 

strength of the markai power, that it drove through the rock and killed ~ a , , , iU , „. . . 
of' b 2. Aukam s brother (see Aukam and 

mother and son. Tiai", in this section). 

I2VI [Told by Wees Nawia of Kubin at Thursday Island, 25 July 1969] 

Im was a man who lived all by himself at a spot between Baua and Totalai 
at the northern end of the island of Mua. He had a very long beard. 
Im was not a fighting man. Sometimes he worked in his garden during 


1. There is another Mabuiag kinship 
term for mother's brother — awade. 

In shape, this stone is exactly like the 
fish which is called im in West Torres 
Strait. Wees Nawia identified im as 
the Banded Wobbegong (Orectolobus 
ornatus [De Vis]) — "Carpet Shark" — 
which has fringing, weed-like fronds 
of skin in the region of the mouth. 

the day. At night he played his drum. When he woke up in the morning 
he went down to the sea and fished. 

He did not fish with line and spear like other men. Instead, he tied many 
wooden fish-hooks to his beard, waded out over the reef, took a deep 
breath, and went down deep in the water. And there he stayed for long 
periods at a time, scarcely moving, the strands of his beard streaming up 
and behind him like so many fishing lines. When a fish took a bait at the 
end of his beard, Im felt the bite and jerked his head. That was how Im 
caught fish. 

One day Sik ran past his place calling loudly: "Does anyone live here?" 
Im replied: "Your uncle (wadwam) 1 lives here." "Then run for your life. 
I'm being chased by markai in a waterspout," shouted Sik. 

Im chose not to flee inland from the markai. He walked to a rock on the 
beach and lay down behind it. Soon afterwards when the markai passed by 
in the waterspout, he turned to stone. 2 


[Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 
1 November 1967] 

The feather was given additional 
height by sticking it on to a slender 
twig of wait. The result was that the 
feather quivered with the slightest 
movement of the wearer and in the 
gentlest breeze. 

Long ago there were seven blind brothers living at Bupu on the island of 
Mua. Every day they used to sail their canoe to a reef and spear fish. 

Before they set out, each tied on a headband and tucked into it a magic 
feather {warka), 1 after which the magic feathers guided the brothers to 
their canoe by quivering so long as the brothers kept to the right path and 
ceasing to quiver if they took a step in the wrong direction. The brothers 
knew when they had reached their canoe from the abrupt cessation of 
movement by the feathers. Then they put up their sail and let the wind 
take them to the reef. 

While they were sailing, the magic feathers did not move. When the 
canoe reached the edge of the reef, however, the feathers began to quiver 
again — the sign to the brothers that they should take down their sail be- 
cause shallow water lay ahead and it was time to use poling-sticks. The 
eldest brother went to the bow of the canoe with his fish-spear and held 
it ready to throw. He knew when and where to throw it by the particular 
movement of the feather in his headband. 


When the canoe was full of fish, the brothers returned to Bupu, guided 
throughout by the magic feathers. While they were sailing across the 
passage between the reef and Mua there was no movement of the feathers. 
When the canoe reached the edge of the island reef, the feathers began to 
quiver, and they did not leave off until the brothers were safely back at 
their home. 

Though the brothers did not know it, they were watched by a dogai 
every day. She lived on a hill overlooking Bupu and, seeing them sail 
away in their canoe, became curious as to what they did all day. 

At last the dogai made up her mind to find out. One afternoon she walked 
to Bupu and, as soon as she saw the brothers' canoe returning, went out 
to the edge of the island reef on a drifted log (betei). When the brothers 
began to take down their sail — as they knew they must do from the 
quivering of the magic feathers in their headbands — the dogai wedged the 
log under the bow, thus preventing the brothers from being able to pole 
their canoe in across the reef. Very quickly then, she took from the canoe 
most of the fish that the brothers had caught that day, removed the log, 
and paddled back to the shore on it. 

With the removal of the log, the canoe rode in the water, and the 
brothers poled in. They thought the tide must have risen suddenly. They 
were very puzzled, however, when they found there were very few fish 
to unload. One of the brothers said: "We must have dropped most of the 
fish outside the canoe as we caught them. Never mind. What we have 
we'll take home and cook." 

Once the dogai knew that the brothers fished when they went out in 
their canoe, she made a practice of meeting them at the edge of the reef 
on their return and robbing them of their fish. The brothers began to 
suspect that a thief was stealing from them, but they had no idea who it 

Then one night the youngest brother lay awake until after his brothers 
had fallen asleep, took out his father's skull, rubbed it with the scented 
leaves of matua, and asked it to give him a good dream (mina piki). "Tell 
me, if you can, what my brothers and I should do to enable us to see with 
our eyes. We fill our canoe with fish every day, yet when we return to 
Bupu the canoe is empty. What happens to the fish we catch?" he begged 
of it. 

While the youngest brother slept, his father came to him in a dream. 
"Do not go to the reef with your brothers tomorrow," his father said. 
"After they have gone, go to Arkai. Your magic feather will lead you to 
turtle tracks on the beach. Follow them to the eggs that were laid. Make a 
fire and cook two of them, and then smash them against your eyes. After 

that you will be able to see." 2. Which bears the name, Dogai Pad. 


So the youngest brother did not go fishing with his brothers the fol- 
lowing day, but stayed behind and obeyed the instructions given by his 
father in the dream. His magic feather guided him to the turtle eggs at 
Arkai. He dug them up, made a fire, cooked two, and taking an egg in 
each hand, smashed them against his eyes. He could see. "My good 
father," he said, "you gave me a beautiful dream. I see Arkai, my home at 
Bupu, my brothers fishing on the reef — I see everything around me. I 
am going to take the rest of the turtle eggs home with me." 

That afternoon he watched his brothers from the moment they set sail 
to return to Bupu, so he saw them met at the edge of the island reef by a 
dogai. He saw her put a log under the bow of the canoe, help herself to the 
fish that his brothers had caught during the day, remove the log and 
return to the shore on it, and then go to Dogai Pad. The youngest brother 
felt sad for his brothers who could not see. 

When they reached home they said: "We have brought back very, few 
fish, though we caught many." The youngest brother cooked them, and 
the brothers ate them for their evening meal. 

Then the youngest brother said: "Sit down." Quickly he heated the 
turtle eggs on the hot ground where the cooking fire had burnt, and after- 
wards went from brother to brother, smashing turtle eggs against their 
sightless eyes. And now all seven brothers could see. The youngest brother 
told about his dream, and he told about the dogai that had been stealing 
their fish. After that, the brothers made a plan to catch the dogai. 

In the morning they tied on their headbands and pretended to let the 
magic feathers lead them to their canoe. Each took with him wap (harpoon- 
spear), amu (rope), and gabagaba (club with circular stone head). They 
sailed to the reef and filled their canoe with fish — very quickly, because 
now they had eyes to see — and before long put back to Bupu. 

They saw the dogai paddling out on the drifted log to meet them at the 
edge of the reef. "That's the one who's been stealing our fish," said the 
youngest brother. 

"Do nothing that will let her know we can see," said the eldest brother. 
"We've fooled her so far today. But watch her through closed lids the 
whole time." 

While the brothers busied themselves with taking down the sail, the 
dogai, after putting her log under the bow of the canoe, began to remove 
the brothers' fish. The eldest brother struck her with his wap, and the other 
brothers fell on her with their spears and gabagaba. 

Before the dogai died she said: "What do I care? I tricked you for a long 
time. I'm going to stay here for ever at the edge of the reef, and you — you 
and your canoe will turn to stone not far from your home at Bupu." 

The dogai became a lagoon — Dogai Malu. The brothers poled their canoe 


ashore and turned to stone along with the canoe. You can see the seven 
brothers standing side by side just above the high-water mark. Their canoe 
is not far away. 


NGURBUM [Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 3 November 1967] 

Long ago, people used to live on Mua Pad (Mt. Augustus). One of them, 
a man named Wami, was a madub — a very lazy fellow who did little but 
eat and sleep. He lived by himself and never joined in with the rest of the 
people, who were always busy, either working in their gardens, clearing, 
digging, weeding, and planting, or fishing, or hunting. Wami hardly 
stirred from his home. 

He spent many years like that and, indeed, might never have changed his 
ways, had he not chanced to see a strange object bobbing about in the 
waves when he woke from sleep one morning and looked out to sea. 
Curious, he walked down the hill to the beach, to learn that it was a 
banana sucker that had attracted his attention. Presently, when a wave 
washed it to his feet, he picked it up. "You are Wami's banana," he told 
it, and he carried it home. 

"My beautiful banana sucker," he crooned to it, "I am going to dig a 
fine hole in the ground for you. Good banana sucker, grow for me." 
And Wami planted the treasure that had come to him from the sea. 

He scarcely took his eyes from the banana sucker. It was the first thing 
he looked at when he woke in the morning. He watched it all day long, 
every day. It was the last thing he saw before he went to sleep at night. 

The sucker took root and sent up a pointed head (ku). The stem which 
bore it grew tall and thick and then curved in an arc, so that the swelling 
head pointed to earth. And as the leaves which sheathed the growing fruit 
of the head unfolded, Wami could see that his tree would bear beautiful, 
big bananas. 

He spent more time than ever watching it. "Wamin ngurbum, Wamin 
ngurbum (Wami's banana tree, Wami's banana tree)," he gloated. A song 
came into his head : 


Madubal ina inab kuruai iudanu, 
Ngai (gar) Wami (a) Wami. 

(This curving stem weighed down with ripening bananas 

belongs to the madub. 

I am Wami, Wami. It is mine.) 

It was constantly on his lips. 

The people living in the village heard him and sent a man to find out 
why he was always singing these days. Wami saw him coming and called 
to him: "Look at my beautiful banana tree. Its name is Wamin ngurbum." 
"May I have a sucker?" asked the man. "You may not," said Wami. 

The man returned to the village. "Wami sings because he has a beautiful 
banana tree," he told the people. "I asked him to give me a sucker, but he 

A second man asked Wami for a sucker from his banana tree, but he 
had no more luck than the first. 

Then two men went to Wami, and when they begged for a sucker he 
said: "When the bananas are ripe, I shall cut off the bunch. After that I will 
give a sucker to the village people. But remember this: everyone is to call 
it by my name. This banana is Wamin ngurbumy 

[After finishing the story, Wees Nawia added this detail]: 

Wami kept his word. The variety of banana grown first on Mua by 
Wami, the madub, still grows on Mua. Some of the young people mis- 
takenly call it wamen ngurbum, not understanding that it takes its name from 
the madub, Wami, who obtained it from the sea. 

BURUMNASKAI [Told by Lizzie Nawia at Kubin, 

3 November 1967] 

Burumnaskai of Mua had many children, all of whom she kept secret for 
a long time. She had no husband. Her brother, Kerarai, who lived not far 
from her, had neither wife nor children. 

One afternoon Kerarai heard the sound of children's voices at his 


sister's place. This surprised him, because he had believed his sister to be 
childless. "I'll visit her and see if she'll let me have one of her children," 
he decided. 

Burumnaskai heard her brother coming towards her place the following 
morning and immediately hid her children in the ground at the foot of a 
banana tree nearby. When Kerarai arrived, there was not a child to be 
seen. Burumnaskai greeted him and said : "My good brother, what brings 
you here? Is there something you want?" "I would like one of your 
children — a little girl or a little boy, either will do," Kerarai replied. "I 
have no children," Burumnaskai told him. "Oh well, in that case I'll be 
on my way," said Kerarai, and he went back to his home. However, he 
determined to listen very carefully in future to all that went on at his 
sister's place. 

Whenever Burumnaskai had to go and work in her garden, she did not 
take her children with her, but left them at home, hidden in the ground 
at the foot of the banana tree. Moreover, she gave them strict instructions 
that they were to stay there without making a sound until she came back, 
and the children obeyed her. Therefore, Kerarai quickly established two 
facts: children laughed and played at his sister's place while she was at 
home; children did not laugh and play at his sister's place while she was 
absent from home. But that Burumnaskai had children was certain, so he 
went to her again before long and asked for one of them. 

"Let me have one of your children," he begged, "just one to play in my 
house." But Burumnaskai, who had hidden her children at the first sound 
of his approaching footsteps, again refused to let him have one. "I have no 
children," she said. And as on the previous occasion of his asking for a 
child, he departed without having seen Burumnaskai's children and 
returned alone to his silent place. 

The following day Burumnaskai hid her children as usual before setting 
out for her garden, but this time she forgot to sweep the ground clean 
around the banana tree, and when Kerarai came along soon after she had 
gone, he saw the footprints made by the children while they played. 
There was proof that his sister had lied to him. Furious, he shot arrows into 
the ground all round the banana tree. Then he returned to his home and 
lay down. Presently he began to snore. 

Burumnaskai felt lazy and disinclined to work in her garden that day, 
and before very long she began to worry about her children. The feeling 
that all was not well with them grew inside her, so she hurried home. She 
saw the arrows in the ground at the foot of the banana tree and called loudly 
to her children. When they did not answer, she wept. 

After a while she dried her tears and looked for the murderer's tracks. 
She found them almost at once. "My brother is no longer 'my good 


brother'," she said. "He killed my children. Their bodies lie underground. 
I am going to kill my brother." 

Kerarai was still snoring when Burumnaskai arrived at his home. He 
did not hear her pile brushwood around it and set fire to it, only waking 
when it was too late to escape from the blaze. "Who did this?" he screamed. 
"Your sister. I, your sister. You are about to die for killing my children," 
said Burumnaskai. 

The spirits of Burumnaskai's children became banana suckers, and before 
long their heads appeared above the ground around the tree 1 where they 
had formerly played. 

KARUM [Told by Salome Bosen at Kubin, 3 November 1967] 

Some girls who were sisters once lived at Baugain. 1 There was a mai tree 
not far from their home which gave them ripe, red fruit for the plucking. 
This fruit (also called mai) they first cooked in an earth-oven and then ate. 

One day, when a young man named Karum came for a share of the 
mai, he and the girls decided to go and play hide-and-seek (utai sagul) in 
Tulu Sarka (sarka, creek) while the fruit was cooking. The girls hid first, 
diving into the water and stirring up the muddy, mangrove-fringed water 
until they were out of sight of Karum who had to find them. When it 
was Karum's turn to hide from the girls, it took a very long time to find 

At the end of the game, Karum and the girls returned to the earth-oven 
and opened it up. It was empty! "Someone has stolen our maiV cried the 
girls. "Who would do such a thing! There must be a dogai about," said 
Karum, pretending surprise when, in fact, he knew all about it. While the 
girls were looking for him in Tulu Sarka, he had run to the earth-oven, 
stolen and eaten the mai, run all the way back and slid into the muddy 
water without being seen. No wonder it had taken the girls so long to find 

This happened not once, but many times. Karum and the girls plucked 
mai, put them in the oven to cook, and, while they were playing hide-and- 
seek in Tulu Sarka, the earth-oven was robbed. In the end, the girls became 
1. On Mua. suspicious of Karum. 

1. This banana tree was a kurub, a vari- 
ety which "has always grown at 
Mua". The suckers of every kurub 
are called burumnaskai. 


The very next day, the youngest sister stayed behind when the others 
went to Tulu Sarka and hid near the earth-oven. Thus she saw Karum 
steal the mai. 

All went to Tulu Sarka the following day, and the moment Karum 
dived into the water, the girls ran back to the earth-oven. They reached it 
ahead of Karum and so were able to catch him in the act of theft. They then 
beat him to death. 

Just before he died, Karum said: "Isu! Isu! (Too late! Too late!) I 
robbed your earth-oven many times before you found me out." 

Karum's spirit became the lizard which lives amongst the mangroves. 
Watch, and you will see him dive into the water and swim about. 


KUI [Told by Lizzie Nawia of Kubin at Thursday Island, 25 July 1969 J 

Kuduluk, a young cuckoo, 1 set out from his home one day in search of 
food. Before long he met Kui, a young curlew. "Where are you going?" 
Kui asked him. "I'm looking for food," replied Kuduluk. "Don't go away. 
Stay and talk to me," said Kui. 

The two young birds talked for a while, and then Kui said: "Would 
you like to play a game?" "What kind of game?" Kukuluk wanted to 
know. "Umau sagul (A game called death). 2 I'll teach you how to play it. 
Lie down and close your eyes, and I'll cry for you. I'll beg you to open 
your eyes, but you must take no notice of anything I say and just keep on 
lying very still with your eyes tight shut. Death is like that." 

So Kuduluk and Kui played the game of death. Kuduluk lay down, 
closed his eyes, and lay very still. "Kukuluk! Kuduluk! Wake up! Open 
your eyes!" urged Kui, and he pretended to weep for his friend. Kuduluk 
did not move, and Kui kept on calling: "Kuduluk! Kuduluk! Open your 
eyes!" But Kuduluk played the game very well and continued to lie very 
still. At last Kui said: "It's time to get up now, Kuduluk. That's how the 
game is played. You can open your eyes now and get up." Kuduluk stood 
up and said: "Was I dead? Is that what death is?" "Yes," replied Kui, 
"that's death. Now it's my turn to act dead." 

Kui lay down and Kuduluk wept for him. "Kui! Kui! Wake up! 
Open your eyes!" called Kuduluk. Kui lay without moving. "Kui! Kui! 


Informants described this bird as 
small and brown, like the Torres 
Strait pigeon in shape, but not so big. 
It builds its own nest. It is called koko 
in East Torres Strait. 
Uma, death; umau sagul, death game. 


The following details were given by the 
informant who tells this children's story. 
Children at Kubin fear the curlew, kui. 
[Called kobebe at Badu. I did not see 
this bird myself, but the Islanders call it 
"curlew" when they speak English.] 
Should they be playing out-of-doors in 
the evening and a curlew cry, they run 
for the shelter of their home. Nothing 
will induce them to set foot outside the 
house after they have heard a curlew. 
"That's Kui, the dead bird, calling," 
they say. 

Open your eyes!" he called many times. Then he said: "It's time to get up 
now, Kui. Open your eyes and get up." But Kui did not stir. Though 
Kuduluk called him and cried for him all day long, Kui never once so 
much as fluttered a single feather, and at last, just before sundown, Kuduluk 
left him lying still and cold on the ground and returned to his home. 

His mother asked him why he had stayed away so long, and he told her : 
"I met a young curlew, Kui, and we played a game called death. Kui 
taught me what it is like to be dead. First I pretended to be dead, and 
then it was Kui's turn. Only, Kui would not get up at the end of the game 
as I had done. I called him and called him. I told him the game was over, 
but he would not move. He will never move again. Today I learned that 
death comes to birds and animals and humans. Kui is dead." 


[Told by Lizzie Nawia at Kubin, 3 November 1967] 

1. Lizzie said that there were many 
people living in the interior of the 
island at that time. 

2. Burum, pig. 

A long time ago there was a very big pig on Mua. It was a man-eater. 
If a man went to his garden alone, this savage boar attacked him and ate 
him. Anyone who passed within smell of it was chased by it and eaten. 
There was no one who could describe the pig, because all who had actually 
seen it had been killed and eaten by it. But everyone had seen its tracks. 

At last the head man called the people together and said to them: "We 
will leave our island and go to Badu. Prepare your canoes and load them. 
We will go today." 

So the people of Mua 1 abandoned their homes, and by the end of the 
day there was no one left on the island but a pregnant woman whose 
husband had died a short time before. She had begged for a place at each 
of the canoes in turn, but all had refused to take her. She wept when she 
saw them go. 

The woman gave birth to twin sons. When they were old enough, she 
made bows and arrows for them, and they learned to shoot. 

One day her sons said to her: "Mother, is there no one on this island but 
us?" And only then did she tell them about Burum, 2 the savage boar. 

"Once," she said, "there were many people on this island, but they be- 
came so terrified of Burum, the man-eating pig, that they went to Badu." 

"Mother," said the boys, "we will kill Burum today." When she tried 


to hold them back, they told her firmly: "We will hunt for Burum and 
kill him today. We will be back before night for our evening meal." 

The two boys found the boar's tracks and followed them up the side of 
a hill to a big boulder, at the foot of which the monstrous beast lay asleep 
on the ground. They climbed the boulder and shot arrows into the pig 
until it was dead. Then they climbed down to the ground, removed two 
of the arrows from the pig, and set out for home. 

The woman shed tears of joy when she saw the blood-stained arrows. 
"My sons," she said, "we will go to the beach and light a big fire." 

This they did, and the fire was seen at Badu. The head man said: "What 
does the fire at Mua mean?" To some of the young men he gave the 
order: "Go and find out." 

The young men went across to Mua. As their canoe drew close to the 
beach, they saw a woman dancing around the fire. Soon afterwards they 
had her story. 

"Burum is dead," she told them. "Tell the people of Mua who are 
living at Badu that Burum, the man-eating pig, is dead. My sons killed 
him, my twin sons who were born after the people of Mua abandoned 
their homes." 

The news was taken to Badu, and next morning the Mualgal who wished 
to go back to their island were permitted to do so. A few old women were 
so beside themselves with joy at the thought of returning to Mua that 
they said they would roll all the way up the hill to their former home. 

MUTA [Told by Dubi Eseli at Kubin, 5 November 1%7] 

Muta of Totalai walked south across the island of Mua to Kubin, where he 
planned to spend several days digging up bua, a kind of yam that he felt 
like eating. He made a temporary shelter for himself near the beach called 

One night as he lay in his camp, he saw flickering lights appear at 
Zurzur, a point north of Mipa. Soon he realized that they were moving 
south, and before long he picked up the sound of paddles. Presently he 
heard canoes beaching and people talking. Whoever they were, they were 
coming straight towards him. 


And then he saw them. They were carrying strings of dugong and turtle 
meat mdguiar — the stingray that is eaten only by markai. His visitors were 
markai ! 

The markai placed their food on the ground near his shelter. 

Immediately a big area of ground round about became as clean as if it 
had just been swept: all the grass disappeared, and the fallen leaves and 
undergrowth as well. Fireflies swarmed, lighting up the air and the trees. 
The markai women sat down and gave suck to their babies to prevent them 
from crying, and the markai men began to dance. Muta lay watching them, 
head on hands. 

It was not long before feathers fell from the head-dresses of the dancers. 
The markai leader said: "There is a human watching us." However, the 
dancing resumed and continued until daybreak, when the ground opened, 
and markai, canoes, and food disappeared inside it. 

Night after night the markai came to Mipa from Zurzur. Muta took 
particular notice of the dancers' head-dresses, because he had made up his 
mind to make a head-dress exactly like those of his visitors and join in the 

One morning he walked along the beach and picked up the feathers that 
he needed. Then he made the head-dress, put it on, and shook his head. 
He was satisfied with his handiwork. 

Muta had his meal early that evening and, as soon as the flickering lights 
appeared at Zurzur, went to the beach at Mipa and swam out until the 
water was up to his chin. Now he draped his head with seaweed and stood 
watching the markai canoes approach. 

The markai leader saw Muta's head and thought it a rock covered with 
seaweed. "Keep away from this rock," he called to those who followed 
him. The outrigger of his own canoe almost scraped Muta's head, but the 
others avoided it more easily. 

Muta followed the last of the canoes as it ran in to the beach. He helped 
the markai unload the dugong and turtle and guiar, and walked with them 
to their dance ground. The markai women settled themselves with their 
babies, and when the markai men began to dance, Muta danced with them, 
his eyes on their leader. Almost at once, however, the leader's head-dress 
fell from his head. "Stop!" he ordered the dancers, at this proof that there 
was a human in their midst. 

Now the markai had been dancing in pairs. So when the leader asked 
each dancer in turn to name his partner, and of them all only Muta could 
not comply, the identity of the human was quickly established. Terrified 
of what the markai would do to him, Muta fled from Mipa. 

Muta ran across the island, his only thought to reach his home at 
Totalai. Close behind him, the markai drove him relentlessly all night long. 


At dawn, when Muta was within sight of Totalai, the markai disappeared 
into the ground. Muta's feet pounded on. They bore him into his house, 
and then he dropped down dead. 

[Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, November 1967] 

In former times there were many villages on the island of Mua, but the 
people did not live in them all the time. Sometimes they abandoned them 
for weeks on end — when, for example, they went to their garden lands, or 
hunted, or, perhaps, merely wanted a change of scene. 

Now in those days there was a village called Parbar on the western side 
of the island and a village called Sagan on the eastern side, and the people 
of those two places, being good friends, showed their friendship by sending 
each other presents of food. Thus, when the men of Parbar speared dugong 
or turtle they sent meat to Sagan, and when the men of Sagan speared 
dugong or turtle they sent meat to Parbar. That was the custom. 

One day, boys who were delivering a present of meat from Sagan to 
Parbar unexpectedly heard singing as they approached Palga, halfway 
between the two villages. They had not known that anyone lived in that 
part of the island, so they dropped the strings of meat that they were 
carrying and went to see who it was. Not far away they found Raramai, a 
blind old woman, lying on her back on the ground. 

When one boy said, "Let's get a big log of wood and put it across her 
neck — she can't see us," the rest agreed and helped him do it. Afterwards 
they picked up the strings of meat and continued their walk to Parbar. 
Later in the day they returned to Sagan by a path which avoided Palga. 
They told no one at either village what they had seen and done. 

Raramai had struggled for a long time to free herself from the log which 
pinned her by the throat to the ground, but her efforts had grown feebler 
and feebler and at last ceased. Poor woman, she had made her home at 
Palga, thinking to use the leaves of the pandanus which grew there to 
make mats. She had harmed no one. 

It was now the turn of the people of Sagan to send a present of food to 
Parbar, and this they did as soon as the men brought home a dugong. The 
boys who took it across discovered Raramai's body and, feeling sorry 
about the manner of her death, removed the log. 


They told the news to the people of Sagan and to their own people at 
Parbar when they returned, but no one at either place shed light on the 
sad end of Raramai, for the culprits kept their secret well. 

Today nobody lives at Parbar or Sagan, but the women of Kubin 
Village 1 go to Palga when they decide to weave mats. They say that the 
best mats are made from pandanus which grows at the spot where Raramai 
1. At the southern tip of Mua. used to live. 


HIS DOG [Told by John Manas at Kubin, 27 October 1968] 

There is a Mabuiag expression: "Umail lak mabaigal (Men are like dogs)." 
At Murray Island, on the opposite side of the Strait, the Meriam say : 
"Wi le uridli (They [that is, dogs] are men)." 


Yelub of Palga 1 had no wife. He lived by himself and never shared the food 
he brought home with him at the end of each day with the people in the 
village, but ate all of it himself. To his dog he threw only bones. 

Now the dog knew very little about Yelub, for when it woke in the 
morning Yelub was already gone — to wherever it was he went — and he 
did not return until late afternoon. When he came back — from wherever 
it was he had been to — he cooked a meal and ate it, threw some bones to 
his dog, and then slept. 

One afternoon as the dog lay waiting for its master to return, it spoke its 
thoughts out loud: "Yelub, all day long you go from place to place to eat 
food. You begin to eat when the sun comes up; you are still eating when 
the sun goes down. You eat fish and meat from dawn until dark, yet all 
you give me is bones." It did not know that it had been overheard by its 
master who had returned earlier than usual from hunting. 

Yelub coughed, to let the dog know he was back, and went straight to 
the creature. "Dogs are like men," said Yelub. "Dogs and men should eat 
the same food." 

He said the same thing to the people of Palga. "Feed your dogs well," 
he counselled them. "They think like us and feel like us. It has been our 
custom to eat meat and throw the bones to our dogs. That is wrong. We 
1. On the island of Mua. should share the meat with them, for, truly, dogs are like men." 



[Told by Katua Namai at Kubin, 2 November 1967] 

Formerly many people lived at Usui Nguki in the centre of the island of 
Mua. Each of the men had a stone fish-trap on the reef at Gerain, which he 
visited at low tide. The fish a man caught in his trap were his. 

Usually all the men of Usui Nguki went to Gerain in company, but on 
one occasion a man named Usius stayed behind. His wife, Drak, overheard 
what the men said to her husband after they returned: "There are many 
fish in your trap. This time we will give you some of our fish. In future, 
however, you will have to go and get fish for yourself." She chided Usius 
for his laziness, and he promised to go to Gerain at the next low tide. 

The moon was very bright that night. Usius woke when it was high in 
the sky and, thinking it was daytime, said to Drak: "I am going to my 
fish-trap." Halfway to Gerain, however, he had a change of mind and 
decided to go instead to his garden at Gisan and collect some sugarcane. 

Hardly had he reached Gisan when he heard laughing voices behind him. 
He broke off some stems of sugarcane, stripped off the leaves and threw 
them away to the north of him. Almost at once the leaves were thrown 
back at his chest. "Perhaps I should throw the leaves in a different 
direction," he thought. So he threw them west. But again they were 
thrown back at him. He tried throwing them south and east — each time 
the leaves were immediately returned to him. "Someone is having a joke 
with me. I'd better leave this place," he decided. 

After he crossed the creek near Gisan, Usius saw who had tricked him 
— markail There were many of them, and they had a leader. "It's you who 
have been teasing me!" he cried. The markai said nothing. Suddenly they 
rushed at Usius, grabbed hold of him, and pulled him to the ground. 

Usius wrestled with them and managed to break free. He tried desper- 
ately hard to escape, running first in this direction, then in that. It was 
useless. There were markai at the tops of trees who shouted to their com- 
panions: "There he goes! That way!" He tied stalks of grass together in 
order to trip the markai. But they caught him many times and, only by 
struggling with all his might, was he able to tear himself from their grasp 
— to run again, hopelessly, blindly. The fearful chase lasted till just before 
dawn when the markai suddenly disappeared. Usius collapsed, unconscious. 

When he woke, he lay for a while with his eyes shut. He felt warm. 


"It must be day-time," he thought. So he stood up, looked around him, 
said, "Yes, of course it's day-time," and walked home to Usui Nguki. 

Drak was waiting for him. "Where are the fish?" she asked. Usius told 
her the story of his horrid encounter with the markai during the night. 
"There! You see? When I tell you to do something, you should do it. 
That's what comes of going off and doing something else. Go and rest 
while I cook something for us," said Drak. 

Usius lay down. Soon afterwards Drak called him to come and eat, 
but by then he was dead. 


THE BUK [Told by Katua Namai at Kubin, 3 November 1967] 

This shelter has a name, urui mud 
(literally, "bird house"). It was the 
custom at Mua for a man to erect an 
urui mud if he intended to make a 
practice of shooting birds at their 
regular watering-place. 
Informants said that at Mua an entire 
village would be deserted for up to 
several weeks at a time when the 
people decided to go and work their 
garden-land. After the work was 
completed, the people returned to 
their village. 

Wees Nawia of Kubin said that his 
grandmother (from Muralag) distin- 
guished between four kinds of ghost: 
mari, which wore feathers on its head 
— sometimes as many as three or 
four; markai; buk, which made the 
sound of a shaken gua (old-time 
dance-rattle) and was especially to be 
feared; and padutu, which might 
occasionally be seen after sunset while 
the sky was still red. A padutu wore a 
single feather and had a red stripe 
across its forehead. 

On the seaward slope of a tall hill at the northern end of Mua there is a 
spring of water, Purup, which is surrounded by big boulders. Formerly 
these boulders were used as a lookout by the people who lived at the foot 
of the hill in the village called Gisan. 

There is no sign of this village today. What follows is the story of a man 
named Gora who lived at Gisan a long time ago when it was a big com- 

Every morning Gora used to climb up the hill to Purup, where he had 
a small shelter made from leafy boughs. 1 Once inside it he could not be 
seen by the birds which came to the spring for water, and it was easy for 
him to shoot as many of them as he needed for food for himself and his 
family. He put a mark on his bow for every bird that he killed. 

One day when he returned from Purup, he found Gisan deserted except 
for his wife and children. He asked where everyone had gone. "To the 
gardens near Narasaldan," his wife told him. "We will go and stay at 
Purup until they come back," Gora said. 2 

Throughout the time that they camped beside Purup, Gora's wife and 
children slept inside the bough shelter at night, and Gora lay down outside 
it across the entrance. He kept a big fire alight all night long for warmth. 

As he was drowsing off on the second night at Purup, he heard something 
or someone moving towards him and the sound of a seed-pod dance-rattle 
{gua). His wife and children were asleep. He lay very still. 

Presently he saw a buk 3 — a markai, the most dreaded kind of markai. 


Silently he willed it to come closer: "Come on. Come on. I'm not afraid 
of you." He moved his hand to the fire and grasped a burning log. The 
buk came nearer. When it was almost upon him, Gora hurled the log of 
fire at it, striking it on the right cheek bone. The buk turned and fled down 
the hillside. 

At the foot of the hill the buk whistled. "Go home! Go back to Kibu!" 4 
shouted Gora. The buk whistled a second time. "Go home to Kibu!" 
shouted Gora. After that there was silence. 

4. Kibu was the home of the spirits. It 
lay somewhere beyond the horizon. 
(See also footnote 5 of "Aukam and 
Tiai", in this section.) 


[Told by Wees Nawia at Kubin, 8 November 1967] 

Amongst the Mualgal (people of Mua) who were living on the eastern 
side of the hill called Gunagan 1 was a man who had a young son named 
Goba. When this man said to his wife one day, "There's a good low tide 
today — I'll go and spear some fish," she warned him to be on his guard 
against raiders from the neighbouring island, Badu. He intended to leave 
his son at home, but the boy pleaded so hard and so long to be allowed to 
go that he yielded, against his better judgment, and took the boy with him. 

Father and son walked to Isumulai 2 on the western coast of the island 
and went out on the reef and fished — unaware that they were watched the 
whole time by members of a warring party from Badu whose canoes 
were beached on the other side of the nearby point, Karbai Gizu. After 
they had filled a basket with fish, they picked up some big bu shells which 
were lying on the reef and began their journey back to Gunagan. 

Both Goba and his father felt very thirsty by this time. When they 
reached the spring, Uma, they halted for a drink. Goba then complained 
of hunger, so his father lit a fire and roasted some fish, although he knew it 
was extremely dangerous for him and his son to dally alone in the bush. 
"Should we be attacked," he told Goba, "run away and climb a tree. Hide 
amongst the branches and leaves. Make no movement. Utter no sound." 

Soon after they sat down to eat the cooked fish, the father glimpsed 
movement in the scrub nearby. "Run!" he whispered to Goba and when 
the boy had gone stood up to face the men of Badu who were about to 

1. This hill is not far from the spring, 

2. The big boulder, Karakar Kula 
(which was formerly a giant, an 
adiad) is at Isumulai. 

3. From which Kubin Village draws its 
water supply today. 


strike him down. "Don't kill me," he said to them, "I am a friend." 
The men of Badu clubbed him and afterwards removed his head with a 
bamboo knife (upi). Goba, watching from a tree, saw his father killed. He 
shut his eyes before the moment of his father's beheading. When he opened 
them he saw his father's headless body lying on the ground and the 
retreating figures of the men from Badu, one of whom carried his father's 

Goba stayed up the tree until long after sunset. Late at night he climbed 
down and ran all the way home to Gunagan, where he told what had 
happened to his father. "Take us to your father's body tomorrow," the 
men said. 

Next morning Goba led the Mualgal to his father's body. They covered 
it with stones. 

[After finishing the story, Wees Nawia added this detail] : 

The events related in this story happened just prior to the coming of 
Christianity to Torres Strait in 1871. 

Goba was about eight years old when his father was killed by the raiders 
from Badu. The mound of stones beneath which his father's bones lie is 
approximately a quarter of a mile from the spring, Uma. 

Goba married. He cut off his wife's head with an axe one day when she 
displeased him. 


stories from 

BADU Mulgrave Island 


[Told by Father Mara at Badu, 22 October 1967] 

Bia, an aborigine (kawaig), lived at Cowal Creek on Cape York Peninsula. 
He ate fish and wild yams (saur). He had magical powers. 1 

Every day he walked along the beach, either south to the mouth of the 
Jardine River, or north to Red Island Point, and he always took his spear 
(dikun) 2 with him, a spear which had some of his own magic power in it. 
He used to throw the spear ahead of him, walk to it, pick it up and throw 
it again, all the way there and back. He used a woomera when throwing 
his spear. 

On the way back from Red Island Point one day, his spear landed at 
Alau, skidded along the sand and buried itself to its full length just above 
the beach. Bia followed its track and found it; when he pulled it out, water 
gushed from the hole. There has been a spring of water at that spot ever 

The thought came to Bia one morning that he would visit the islands 
which lay to the north of his home at Cowal Creek. From the dilly-bag 
in which he kept his aids to magic he took out a small, magic canoe and 
a feather. He put the magic canoe into the sea, stuck the feather in the canoe, 
and spoke magic words. These caused the feather to become a sail and the 
canoe one big enough to hold a man. Bia stepped into the canoe and sailed 
to Muralag. 

He landed at Dakanu. Now if he were to be able to play with his spear 
at this new place, he had to have a long beach like those at his former home, 
so he went round to the west side of the island and looked for one. At the 
first long stretch of sand he saw, he threw his spear. It came to rest in the 
roots of a mangrove tree. This island, Bia decided, did not suit him. So 
he sailed further north. 

Kunai (Goode Island) 3 did not please him. Warar (Hawkesbury Island) 
did not please him. At neither was there a beach where he could throw his 
spear. At Warar he looked north and saw Badu and Mua. He chose Badu 
as the next island that he would visit. 

Bia landed on the south-west coast of Badu at a spot on the beach near 
the big rock called Kudal. A man named Itar lived near by. He greeted Bia, 
and the two men became friends. 

Bia and Itar lived together at Kudal for some time. They ate fish and 

1. Nui pui-mabaig, he magic-power 

2. Dikun, a spear used in play. 

3. Goode Island seems to have two 
names, Kunai and Palilag. 


4. This spring is called Iaza. It has never 
been known to fail. 

5. Itar became the Epaulette Shark, 
Hemiscyllium ocellatum. 

6. In front of the present-day village. 

yams. The variety of yam which Itar dug was bua, a kind unknown to Bia. 
Bia, on the other hand, dug saur, the yam which he had found and eaten 
at Cowal Creek, and he now taught Itar about it. Each man was delighted 
to learn of a new food. 

One day Bia threw his spear along the beach which stretched north of 
Kudal. He had not used all his strength in throwing it, so it did not travel 
very far. Yet Bia spent a long time looking for it before he found it, be- 
cause the sand where it landed and afterwards skimmed along the surface 
was hard-packed — there was no track to lead Bia to his spear. Eventually 
he found it at Mekeina Kausar. Then he threw it back to Kudal, and it 
landed beside the rock on the beach. 

Another day, after throwing his spear to Mekeina Kausar, he threw a 
second time, further north, to the very end of the beach. It was very hard 
to find. For a while he thought it was lost for good. "My beautiful spear, 
where are you? Have you buried yourself like a crab in the sand? I do not 
want to lose you," said Bia. He went to the soft sand-ridges behind the 
beach. There was no trace of the spear. At last he found it, further inland 
from the shore than he had expected it to be, buried to its full length in 
the middle of a patch of scrub, and, when he pulled it out, beautiful, clear, 
sweet water gushed from the ground. 4 "This is my water. I found it with 
my spear. This water will never stop flowing," he said. He was very happy. 

On the long walk back to Kudal, Bia threw his spear twice only, the 
first time, just before he set out, the second time from Mekeina Kausar 
where it had come to rest. At Mekeina Kausar he hooked his spear to his 
woomera and threw with all his might. "When he reached Kudal, he saw 
Itar lying on the beach, dead: his spear had pierced his friend's side and 
killed him. Bia wept. 

Afterwards he carried Itar to the edge of the sea and, before throwing 
the body into the water, said: "Itar, my good friend, you will become a 
fish and live in the sea. You will look for food only at night. During the 
day you will rest safe and sound inside a hole in a stone." 5 

Bia had no wish to stay at Kudal any longer, so he left at once in his 
magic canoe, sailing round Zigini Ngur to Wakaid and then leaving Badu 
and crossing to Parbar on Mua. From Mua he sailed to Iem, a small island 
from which Gumu (Mabuiag) was clearly visible. He chose, however, to 
go east with the next morning tide past Gebar (Two Brothers Island) to 
lama (Yam Island), which place he reached before sunset that day. 

When he woke the following morning, Bia decided to play with his 
spear and, walking to the beach, 6 threw it over a rocky point at the end of 
the stretch of sand. When it landed, its tip pierced the ground. Bia easily 
found his spear. "When he pulled it free, water flowed from the shallow 
hole. "This is my water," he said, "but, because my spear only went into 


Mota Charlie, one of the story-tellers. 
Mota is sitting facing the spring created 
by Bia's spear. The spring is at Iaza on 
the island of Badu. 


7. This spring is called Ngurnguki at 
Yam Island (ngur, point; nguki, 

8. The church stands there today. 

9. In Mogor. 

the ground a little way, it will sometimes fail. In a drought, this spring 
will go dry." 7 

Next day, Bia again sailed east with the morning tide. It took him to 
Kailag (Yorke Island), where he did not go ashore, not liking the beaches 
for spear-play, and to Erub (Darnley Island), where he landed at Badog. 8 

Bia slept the night at Badog and in the morning walked round to the 
east side of the island. At the beginning of the long beach called Isem, he 
threw his spear, and it fell on the far side of the headland at the end of the 
beach, burying itself to half its length. At that spot, 9 once again Bia's 
spear found water. Bia said: "This is my water. The spring is good. 
Nevertheless, it will dry up at times, because my spear did not bury itself 

Mer (Murray Island), suspended above the horizon east of Erub, was 
not visited by Bia. He saw Mer, but he did not go there. From Erub he 
sailed south. With his magic to help him and a good north wind from 
behind, he reached Cowal Creek in one day. He sailed up the creek for a 
short distance and then, standing up in his canoe, hooked his spear on the 
woomera and threw it. "Where my spear stops, I will make my home," 
said Bia. 

The spear flew through the air to the hills inland and half-buried itself 
in the ground at a place where tall grass grew. Bia lived there by himself 
for a while. Later, he had a wife with him. 

Bia's spear had been his plaything, a magic toy, which he had never used 
for killing men. He was a man who had magical powers; he was not a 
fighting man. Therefore, when he had reason after a time to believe him- 
self to be in danger of an attack by enemies, he said to his wife: "We 
must leave this place. It is not safe for us to remain here." And the two 
walked towards the coast. Not far from the mouth of Cowal Creek, Bia 
embraced his wife and, holding her tight in his arms, jumped into the 
running water. He spoke magic words, and at once he and his wife be- 
came a pair of mating turtles (saulal) which were carried out to sea by the 

Ever since, the first pair of mating turtles in the season of mating turtle 
have always been seen floating on top of the water near the entrance to 
Cowal Creek. Other couples quickly follow the first and make their way 
north. Before long, the sea which lies between the two mainlands is 
dotted with mating turtle. 



ZIGIN [Told by Ben Nona at Badu, 25 October 1967] 

Long ago there were two brothers, Wad and Zigin, living near the spot 
on the beach which came to be called Wadan Wibad. Wad's home 1 
was a little to the north of Zigin's. 

Both men were hunters. Wad was an expert, a champion, and he 
always gave his younger brother a half share of everything he speared in 
spite of the fact that Zigin was lazy and seldom went out. 

In the season of mating turtle, there was never a day when Wad was not 
out in his canoe hunting. On the beach in front of the place where he 
lived there was always a long row of turtle lying on their backs, white 
bellies uppermost, that Wad had speared. When he wanted to eat turtle, 
he killed one of them, cut it up, and gave half the meat and fat to Zigin. 

But Wad found it very difficult to do all the work by himself, and one 
day he asked Zigin to go with him and steer the canoe. Zigin said: "I 
won't go with you — I might get wet. Besides, after playing my drum all 
night I'm tired and I'm going to sleep today." 

For a while longer Wad continued to work alone without the help of 
his younger brother, and he still gave him a half-share of his turtle meat 
and fat. The day came, however, when Wad said to himself: "I'm going 
to teach that lazy brother of mine a lesson." 

Next day, Wad caught some turtle, brought them ashore and cut them 
up. This time he kept all the best parts for himself and to his brother gave 
no fat (tupai), no eggs (wibad), only shoulder meat (pagasiu madu), the 
worst cut from a turtle. 

Zigin was furious. "I'll go out and catch turtle for myself," he raged. 
"I'll block the tide and prevent it from reaching Wad — usalai 2 will bring 
no more turtle to Wad. My elder brother will sit out there with dry lips 
(Kau ni nika kuruig tepad gudalngd). He'll catch nothing. Kulis will drive 
all the turtle to the bottom of the sea and keep them there, and there'll 
be no usalai for Wad. I'll have my revenge on him for giving me shoulder 
meat only!" 

The following morning, Zigin went to Kabar Gizu, 3 walked out into 
the sea, and stood in it all day long, facing west. But he caught no turtle. 
Usalai, blocked by Zigin, diverted itself to his left. It swept the turtle 

1. The school stands very close to where 
Wad lived. 

2. In Torres Strait, tide is thought of as 
flowing either from west to east, or 
from east to west. There are names 
for special conditions of tide. Thus, 
usalai is the tide when it is flowing 
strongly from west to east in the 
afternoon. It is the tide when turtle 
are caught. Kulis is the tide when it 
flows from east to west. Turtle are 
not caught with kulis. 

3. The rocky point at the southern end 
of the beach beside which he lived. 


4. The rocky headland since called Zigi 
ni Ngur. 

south to the small island called Tiki, and Wad got them. (A rock marks the 
spot off Kabar Gizu where Zigin stood in the sea that day.) 

The next day, Zigin walked south of Kabar Gizu to the beach called 
Dual Butu before going out and standing in the sea. Usalai again diverted 
itself to the left of him and this time carried the turtle between Tiki and 
neighbouring Iargas, a small island south of Tiki. Again, Zigin caught no 
turtle, and Wad caught many. 

"What I have done has had no effect," thought Zigin. "I'll have to stand 
still further south, between Urakaran and Gizu. 4 Wad won't catch turtle 
if I do that. My elder brother will surely sit all day long with dry lips." 

So, the day after, Zigin stood in the sea off Gizu and, at mid-afternoon 
when usalai began to flow full and strong, Zigin, who had spent the night 
playing his drum, was fast asleep. Turtle swept by on both sides of him. 
And Wad, as always, caught many turtle. 

Day after day, Zigin stood in the sea out from Gizu. And every evening 
when he returned home, he saw a row of white bellies on the sand in front 
of Wad's place. Zigin never brought back a single turtle, for every day, 
by the time usalai arrived, Zigin, exhausted from playing his drum the 
night before, was asleep on his feet. 

One day, Zigin died while he was standing in the sea out from Gizu. 
He died of starvation. 

Wad continued to hunt daily and spear turtle. He had proved himself to 
be a cleverer man than his younger brother and he was proud of it. One 
day when he was cutting up turtle, he allowed the sea to wash the eggs 
high up the sand. "Wadan wibad. (Wad's [turtle] eggs.) This is my place," 
he said. 

Wad's turtle eggs turned to stones which lie on the beach just south of 
the school. They are still there, at Wadan Wibad. 

A ring tide swirls around Zigin when the tide is low — he never moved 
from the spot at which he stood in the water trying to prevent usalai from 
carrying turtle to his elder brother, but turned to stone and became a rock 
on the bed of the sea. He has not been forgotten. "Ni mata keda Zigin 
mid," say the people of Badu to a lazy man, "feai gam daidamalnga (You 
are just like Zigin — a very lazy fellow)." 



DAUGHTERS [Told by Yopelli Panuel at Badu, 

25 October 1967] 

Long ago at Wakaid there was a man who had four beautiful daughters, 
Madainab, Mainab, Damanab, and Kotinab. 

One day he told them that they would be going that night to hunt for 
turtle by torchlight. In the evening they made their way by canoe to Kubin, 
and from there, south to the big reef a short distance away, where they 
released suckerfish (gapul). They did not know that they were being 
watched by a sorcerer who was using evil magic against them. 1 

Presently one of the suckerfish attached itself to a turtle. Madainab, the 
eldest daughter, jumped into the water to catch the turtle and was taken 
down deep by it. She never came up. "Madainab, my beautiful daughter," 
said the father after he had set sail for the return journey to Badu, "the 
spot at which you died shall be named for you." 2 

By the time the canoe reached Zigini Ngur, 3 the second daughter, 
Mainab, was so ill that the father decided to take her ashore at the small 
beach nearby. She died there. The father and his remaining two daughters 
built a sara 4 (platform) and placed her body on it. They then returned to 
their canoe. 

"We cannot return to Wakaid," 5 said the father. "We shall go to Argan." 
And as they sailed for the west coast of Badu, he said to the girl who lay 
on the sara: "Mainab, my beautiful daughter, men will call the beach 
where you died by your name." 

When the father and Damanab and Kotinab reached a certain small bay 
between Barabaras and Argan they landed, to be greeted by the young 
men who were camped close by. 

That night the young men danced, and Damanab fell in love with one of 
them. She did not sail with her father and her sister when they left in the 
morning, instead remaining with the young man whom she had chosen 
for her husband from among the dancers. From a distance the father looked 
back at her and said: "Damanab, my beautiful daughter, your home shall 
be called by your name." 

The father and his youngest daughter went ashore for the last time at 
Koteid. After they had been there for a while, news of the beautiful girl 

1. Another informant said that the 
sorcerer had been engaged by the 
brother of the father of the four 
daughters. This brother had refused 
to join the turtle-hunting expedition 
when asked, and, since he was jealous 
of his brother and was piqued by the 
latter's going off without him, 
decided to harm him. 

The brother's name was Idunab. 
He lived about half a mile north of 
the village called Wakaid, in the area 
near the creek which bears his name: 

2. Where Madainab died there are 
several small reefs. These have the 
name, Madainab. 

3. On Badu. 

4. The platform on which a corpse was 

5. See footnote 1 for the possible expla- 
nation of this remark. 


6. At a later date, a man named Dokere 
cut up a turtle (of the big-headed 
kind known as maiwa) on top of this 
stone. He left the carapace on it, and 
the carapace afterwards turned to 
stone. Both stones are usually referred 
to as Maiwal Kula (kula, stone, rock). 

When the story of the four beauti- 
ful daughters is told, the father is 
sometimes called Maiwal. Properly 
speaking, however, that name derives 
from an incident in the story about 

spread to a nearby village. "Let us go and dance for her," said the young 
men. "Let us see if she will choose one of us to be her husband." 

So the young men decorated their bodies and set out with their drums 
to dance for Kotinab. Presently she chose one of them. 

"Kotinab, my beautiful daughter," the father said at parting from his 
youngest child, "your name will live on, for the place to which you are 
going will henceforth be known as Kotinab. Later, I shall come and make 
my home within sight of you." 

This he did, turning to stone on the reef, 6 not far from the southern end 
of the beach called Kotinab. 


[Told by Mota Charlie at Badu, 26 October 1968] 

A long time ago, a man named Dokere who lived at Argan caught a big- 
headed turtle (maiwa). He did not want the blood of the turtle to be taken 
away by the tide when he removed the flesh from the carapace on the reef, 
therefore the cutting-up would have to be done at the right kind of spot. 
Turtle on shoulder, Dokere went in search of it. 

He examined the reef at Tudui, Iaza, Waru, Zigini Ngur, and Sisal 
Ngur, in that order. There was nowhere suitable at those places. Not 
until he reached Koteid on the opposite side of the island to Argan did he 
see what he wanted. There, not far out from the beach, was a big rock 
with a flat top and around it a pool of water which had been left behind 
by the tide. 

Dokere walked to the rock, laid the turtle on its back on top of it, and 
cut the flesh from the carapace. The blood of the turtle he emptied into 
the pool, where it would remain until the incoming tide brought it ashore. 
Replacing the meat in the shell, he carried it back to the beach and cooked 
it in an earth-oven. After eating, he slept all night long. 

In the morning he woke with a raging thirst. First, he took the shell of 
maiwa out to the rock where he had done his cutting-up the previous day 
and, laying the shell ori top of it, said: "This rock shall be called Maiwal 
Kula (Turtle-with-a-big-head Rock)." Then he began to look for water 
to drink. 

He walked back round the island all the way to Iaza without finding a 


drop. At that place he struck inland and before long came to a beautiful, 
big pool from which flowed fresh, cool water. Dokere, parched, jumped 
into the water and swam and drank. He drank so much that his scrotum 
burst, and his testicles fell to the bottom of the pool. 

Only then did Dokere climb out of the water. "This is my water 
(Dokeren nguki)," he said. "It will never go dry. My testicles will remain 
at the bottom of it for ever." 

Both Dokere's testicles and the shell of maiwa which Dokere left on the 
rock at Koteid turned to stone. The stream of water (Bubul Nguki) which 
flows from the pool discovered by Dokere has never been known to stop 


[Told by Mota Charlie at Badu, 27 October 1967] 

This is the story of a man named Sesere who lived by himself at a spot 
north of the village called Tulu. At that time there were a number of small 
villages south of Tulu — Bait, Bokan, Zaum, Aubu Kosa, Kulkai, and 
Sisal Ngur. The place where Sesere had his home is remembered as 
Seserengagait, Sesere's place. 

One morning at low tide when Sesere was walking about on the reef 
spearing fish — this was his daily custom — he noticed reef grass that had 
been nipped off short in mud that had the appearance of having been 
disturbed by a big fish eating. He had never seen anything like it before. 
Another day he saw a kind of excreta washed up by the tide that was 
different from any he had previously seen. 

Sesere puzzled over these strange new signs. What kind of animal was 
visiting the reef? Was it good to eat? He would have to catch it and find 
out, but as he did not know how to set about doing it, he would have to 
obtain help from his parents who were dead. 

So he went to the cave in which he kept their skulls, removed them, 
washed them, and rubbed them with the scented leaves of takar and matua, 
and then he addressed them: "Amadual, babadual (mother, father, both of 
you), give me a good dream tonight. Strange animals are grazing on the 
reef What are they? How should I catch them?" That night he slept with 
his head close to the skulls. 1. Gagait, place. 


In sleep he heard the sound of awarpali (finger-nail-flicking), and soon 
afterwards saw his parents. They said: "Purkur! 2 What do you want? 
Climb the hill tomorrow. Search until you find a place where many small 
birds are twittering. Everything you need to catch dangal (dugong), the 
creature whose spoor you have recently seen, will be there." 

When he woke next morning, Sesere pushed the skulls away, saying: 
"You gave me a bad dream last night." But almost at once he pulled them 
back and, clasping them to him, said: "No, no. It was a good dream." 
And as soon as he had eaten, he climbed the hill behind Seserengagait and 
walked about until he reached the place described to him by his father and 
mother. There, leaning against the trunk of a tree — in which, and above 
which, many small birds twittered in tremulous flight — were wap (dugong- 
hunter's spear), km? (barbed harpoon), kodai amu* (rope), and poles for 
building a niat 5 (dugong-hunter's platform). All these things Sesere carried 
to his home. 

The light-coloured dugong of West 
Torres Strait. Note the harpoon in the 
left shoulder. 

2. Another informant, Jomen Tamwoy, 
used the word purupuru. I could not 
obtain a meaning for either purkur 
or purupuru. 

3. Inserted into one end of the wap. 

4. Kodai, a strong vine; amu, rope. 

5. Or nat. 


At low tide that afternoon, Sesere drove a narapat (marker stick) into the 
spot at which a dugOng had left off eating at the previous high tide (to 
indicate the site for a hunting platform). Then he erected the platform and 
placed on top of it wap, kuir, and amu. When the water covered the reef 
that night, Sesere went to the platform and waited for the dugong to come 
back and resume feeding. Presently he harpooned it. 

After that Sesere always had dugong to eat. Some of the meat he cooked 
in an earth-oven, some he smoked on a rack over his fire. He had meat to 
spare, and this he strung and suspended from the roof of his house. He 
had no need to spear fish. 

After a while the people of Tulu became curious about Sesere; why did 
he no longer go to the reef daily and walk about with his fish-spear? 
One of the men made the shape of a dog from the spathe of coconut 
fronds, went into it, and ran to Seserengagait to find out. Sesere saw him 
coming and thought: "This must be a dog from the big village." He 
called it to him: "Come here, dog. Would you like some dugong meat?" 
The man inside the dog ran for the meat which Sesere threw to him, 
gulped it down, and then he ran back to Tulu. "Sesere is catching dugong," 
he told the people. "He gave me some dugong meat to eat. There are 
strings of meat, both fresh and cooked, hanging from the roof of his 

The following day three men in the guise of dogs ran from Tulu to 
Seserengagait and, after being fed dugong meat by Sesere, returned to 
their village. The day after, five went to Seserengagait. This time they did 
not run away immediately after they had been fed but lay down and fixed 
their eyes on Sesere, who, finding their behaviour odd, walked away from 
his house. When he returned, the dogs had vanished, and some strings of 
meat had disappeared. 

Many men ran to Seserengagait as dogs on the next visit, and, as on the 
previous day, they lay down after they had been fed and stared at Sesere. 

Sesere stared back at them, taking particular notice of their eyes. "These 
dogs have the eyes of men," he decided. So he left his house, but for a 
short time only, and came back in time to see the dogs running away with 
strings of meat in their mouths. He shot an arrow at one of the dogs and 
killed it. And that night he asked his parents' skulls for a dream which 
would tell him how to fight the men of Tulu who would certainly come in 
strength to avenge the death of their kinsman. 

In the morning all the men of Tulu put on their fighting gear and 
marched to Seserengagait, where Sesere was waiting for them inside his 
house. "Come out!" shouted the head man of Tulu, "Come out!" And 
after Sesere appeared, the head man said: "Look up at the sun {Goigoika 
nagi) ! We are going to kill you. Take your last look at the sun!" Then the 


6. Jomen Tamwoy, who also told the 
story of Sesere, gave a different end- 
ing from Mota Charlie's. Jomen said: 

Sesere grew tired during the fight against 
the men from the villages south of Tulu 
and tried to escape by hiding inside a bu 
shell (Australian Trumpet Shell, Syrinx 
aruanus Linne). When his enemies smash- 
ed the bu shell with their clubs, he flew to 
a bush. Then his enemies swore at him 
and said: "You will be a bird for ever and 
ever. You will never leave this place, and 
as you flit about in the scrub you will call: 
'Sesere pude, Sesere bubung kupai ia pude 
(Sesere went and hid inside a bu shell).' " 

men of Tulu rushed at Sesere, ready to bring down their clubs on his head. 

Sesere changed into a willy-wagtail and flew to the top of a man's head. 
Another man swung his club at Sesere but missed him completely, be- 
cause Sesere flew away at that instant, and he only succeeded in killing his 
kinsman. Sesere flew from head to head, always saving himself from his 
attackers and causing the men of Tulu to strike each other dead. Thus, by 
following the advice given to him by his parents when they visited him 
in a dream the night before, he outwitted the men who had come to kill 
him. Only one man lived to return to Tulu. 

This man summoned the men from the neighbouring small villages — 
Bait, Bokan, Zaum, Aubu Kosa, Kulkai, and Sisal Ngur. Together they 
went to Seserengagait. But of them all, only one survived, for Sesere again 
changed himself into a willy-wagtail and tricked the men into killing each 

The villages appealed to a number of dogai to go and kill Sesere, but the 
dogai were no match for the willy-wagtail against whom they had to fight, 
and soon all were dead. 

After that no one came near Sesere. He went on living by himself at his 
place, spearing dugong, and living well on their meat. He shared it with 

From Sesere, however, came the knowledge of how to make wap and 
kuir and niat, and with it, the ability of men to hunt and catch dugong for 
themselves ever afterwards. 6 


Artist Ngailu Bani 


[Told by Mota Charlie at Badu, 26 October 1967] 

Iawar lived by himself at Italnga. He was an excellent gardener. Everything 
that he planted — bananas, yams, and other fruits and vegetables — grew 
well and grew fast, so fast that while he was still planting, those plants 
which he had only just put into the ground had sprung up behind him and 
matured, and were swarming with fruit-flies attracted by the rich, ripe 
smell of their fruit. 

On the high ground, Madubau Kal — not far from Italnga — there lived 
some men, madubalgal } who watched all that Iawar did. They wanted to 
enjoy the same, quick harvests as Iawar, so they visited him and asked him 
to come and show them how he planted. 

Iawar went to Madubau Kal and taught the madubalgal how to plant. 
But he did not give away all his secrets. Therefore, although the madubalgal 
followed Iawar's instructions, they did not obtain the results that they 
observed from Iawar's planting in his own garden at Italnga. 

So the madubalgal asked Iawar to come and show them how to plant 
as he did. In fact, they asked him to come many times, because, no matter 
how often Iawar taught them, what they planted never grew so fast or so 
well as what Iawar planted for himself. 

At last the madubalgal became angry and suspicious. "Iawar is making 
fools of us. He is holding something back from us. Why do our plants 
never grow like his?" they said. 

Once more they invited Iawar to come to Madubau Kal. When he 
arrived, they knocked him down, overpowered him, and put a string 
through the hole in his nose. Then they hauled him — by means of the 
string — from Madubau Kal, along the high, grassy place called Kaideilu, to 
the foot of the hill, Wabau Pad — the route is clearly to be seen today as a 
strip of grass on which no trees grow, though many grow on either side 
of it — and from Wabau Pad to Tulu. At Tulu they put him in a canoe and 
took him across to Totalai on the island of Mua. From Totalai they dragged 
him past Baua to Bulbul, whence they dispatched him by rainbow to 
Erub (Darnley Island). 

While the madubalgal were dragging him along on Badu by the string 
through his nose, Iawar gathered up all the good soil. This he held in his 
hands until he reached Erub, and then he used it for the gardens which he 
made on that island. 

1. An informant said that a madub was 
a lazy, stupid, apathetic person; the 
madubalgal (plural of madub) had so 
little success with their planting be- 
cause they were just that — lazy, stu- 
pid, apathetic fellows; and in the 
story of Iawar was to be found the 
origin of the idiomatic expression in 
current use at Badu for a lazy, stupid, 
apathetic person: "M madub. (You 
are just like the madubalgal.)" 


BIU [Told by Sesa Bani at Kubin, 5 November 1967, and Jomen Tamwoy 
at Bamaga, 15 November 1967] 

1. Biu, a variety of mangrove; the seed- 
ling pod of this mangrove; the edible 
pulp of its pod. 

2. Gudigad could not be identified with 
certainty by the informants. Jomen 
Tamwoy thought that Gudigad may 
have been either a woman who habit- 
ually drank enormous quantities of 
water — Goba's wife, perhaps — or a 

3. Kimus, an arrow which is tipped with 
cassowary bone (or claw). Kimus was 
more deadly than any other arrow. 

4. Iarage = iagar (alas!). 

5. Baimut, a small grey bird. It has a 
yellow breast. 

Gitalai the crab lived in the mud at the foot of a mangrove tree. Biu, 1 a 
seed pod which grew at the top of the tree, fell into the mud below and 
broke Gitalai's back. 

Gitalai called loudly to a man named Goba: "Goba, bring your axe and 
chop Biu's head off!" Goba came and chopped Biu's head off. 

Biu called to Fire: "Fire, come and burn Goba!" Fire came and burnt 

Goba called to Water: "Water, come and quench Fire!" Water came 
and quenched Fire. 

Fire called to Gudigad: "Gudigad, come and drink Water!" Gudigad 
came and drank Water. 

Water called to Kimus: 3 "Kimus, come and pierce Gudigad's belly!" 
And when Kimus came and pierced Gudigad's belly, all the water inside 
her ran out. 

Kobebe, the night curlew, began to wail for all who had died: for Biu 
and Gitalai and Goba and Fire and Water and Gudigad. 
"Kia kia iarage," 4 mourned Kobebe. 

"Baiama sesere ku-ku-ku," cried Baimut 5 and his companions. 
After, the air was still. 


[Told by Wipa Waiat at Badu, 19 October 1967] 

When Tagai and Kang set out from Mabuiag in their canoe one day, they 
had their sister, Kuaka, on board with them. 

She made herself a nuisance by moving from stern to bow and from 
bow to stern, never sitting still, and forever calling her own name: "Kuaka ! 


Kuaka! Kuaka!" Her fidgety behaviour made Tagai very angry. "Be 
quiet! Sit still!" he ordered, at the same time striking the poling stick 
against the side of the canoe. 

Kuaka obeyed for a while, and then she became restless again. "Stop it!" 
shouted Tagai, intensely irritated by then. But Kuaka, seemingly, could 

Tagai emptied every one of the coconut shell water-containers (kusul) 1 
on board the canoe. A short time afterwards he said to his sister: "You and 
I will go ashore at Mui Wakaid on Badu and fill the kusul." 

Tagai and Kuaka carried all the kusul to the pool in the scrub behind 
Mui Wakaid. They filled some and took them back to the canoe, leaving 
behind those that were still empty. No sooner had they reached the canoe, 
however, than Tagai sent Kuaka back to fill and fetch the remaining kusul 
by herself, and she had not gone far, when he poled the canoe out from the 
shore. By the time Kuaka came back from the pool, he was well out to sea. 

"Come back," called Kuaka, "I am your sister." 

"I will not have you on board the canoe," replied Tagai. "Stay where 
you are. Badu will be your home." 

In vain Kuaka pleaded with Tagai to put back for her. She was still 
calling to him when the canoe disappeared from her sight. 

Presently she changed into a brown bird. From that time she has never 
done anything else but fly from tree to tree, never stopping long in any 
one place, but always restlessly hopping and flitting about. And, as she did 
in Tagai's canoe, so now she still calls her own name, over and over again: 
"Kuaka! Kuaka! Kuaka!" 

The bird which Kuaka became. The 
sketch in the corner shows Kuaka 
standing on the beach at Badu, imploring 
her brothers, Tagai and Kang, to come 
back for her. 

Artist Ngailu Bani 

1. Always carried in pairs. Kusu is the 
singular form of the word. 


SISTERS [Told by Lassie Eseli at Badu, 25 October 1967] 

Seven girls — seven sisters — and a youth named Tubu used to go to Kulkai 
for mai, Tubu climbing the tree and knocking down the fruit, the girls 
filling their baskets as it fell. Then he climbed down and filled his own 

The girls treated Tubu shabbily, leaving only green, unripe fruit for 
him. He knew it, but said nothing. 

After every visit to the mai tree, Tubu and the girls went down to the 


1. Taken away by the sea. 

2. Platycephalus arenarius Ramsay and 

beach and cooked their fruit, the contents of each basket being kept 
separate from the rest: inside the earth-oven there were eight individual 
heaps of mai. And while they were waiting for the mai to come out of the 
oven, they played a game of hide-and-seek in the sea. 

The girls always hid first, and while he was looking for them in their 
hiding-places under the water, Tubu would be thinking to himself: 
"You took all the ripe red mai and left only green ones for me, but I'll 
be even with you." And when it was his turn to hide, no sooner was he 
out of sight of the girls than he changed into a garfish (zaber), skipped along 
the top of the water until he reached the beach, and then changed into a 
little lizard (zizuruk, or sizuruk). Very quickly, he ran across the sand, went 
into the earth-oven, ate the seven heaps of ripe fruit belonging to the girls, 
and afterwards returned to the sea in exactly the same manner as he had 
left it. 

It always took the girls a long time to find Tubu, the youth, when he 
hid from them. And, of course, at the end of the game when the earth- 
oven was opened, the girls always found that their mai had vanished. 

After a while they began to suspect Tubu of playing a trick on them. 
"Why does it take us so long to find him when he hides? We'll have to 
catch him in the act. Tomorrow we won't waste time looking for him, but 
go straight to the earth-oven." 

So the following day they were ready for Tubu, and when they saw a 
garfish skip along the top of the water towards the shore, they followed it 
in. Thus they were in time to see the garfish change into a lizard and run 
over the sand to the oven and go inside it. "That's the way he's managed to 
rob us, is it?" said the girls. "Very clever, Tubu, changing yourself into a 
garfish and a lizard. But not clever enough!" And they uncovered the 
earth-oven at once. 

The little lizard lay very still, ashamed to look at the girls who had 
found him out. "We're going to kill you, Tubu," the girls said. 

But Tubu pleaded with the girls not to kill him inside the earth-oven: 
"Let me go down the beach, to the edge of the sea. You can kill me then." 
The girls agreed to his; only, just as they were going to kill him, Tubu said : 
"If you kill me here, my blood will be wasted. 1 Mui Wakaid would be a 
much better place to kill me. I'll run from here to Mui Wakaid, and you 
can kill me there." At Mui Wakaid Tubu said: "Why don't you kill me 
at Dogai Wak {wak, bay)? It doesn't make any difference to you where 
you kill me, does it? You can easily catch me and kill me at Dogai Wak." 
And once more the girls agreed to put off killing Tubu for a little while 

Tubu reached Dogai Wak ahead of the girls, ran down into the sea, and 
changed into a fish — a sand flat-head. 2 The girls chased him with sharp- 


pointed sticks, but Tubu swam out to deep water and they could not catch 
him. "Go back to Kulkai and stay there for ever," Tubu ordered them. 

And this they did. When they got back to Kulkai they walked to a spot 
on the reef at the edge of the channel between Badu and Mua and turned 
into rocks: seven rocks which are called Ngokazil. 3 

Meanwhile Tubu had been teasing the dogai whose home was the bay, 
Dogai Wak. That day she had gone fishing off the point not far from her 
home, and Tubu annoyed her by swimming underwater and tickling her 
feet. She tried to spear him with a pointed stick, but he was too quick for 
her and escaped into deep water where she could not follow. 

"Tubu," said the dogai when she saw him come to the surface a little 
while after, "for the rest of your life you are going to have to follow the 
tide. You will go out with the tide and come in with the tide." 

"Dogai" replied Tubu, "you're never going to move from the spot 
where you're standing right now." 

The dogai turned to stone. She is the rock about seventy-five yards from 
the point at one end of the bay, Dogai Wak, so-called because it was once 
her home. 

3. Ngawakazil, girls. Ngawakazil is pure 
Mabuiag. Ngokazil is dialect. The two 
words have exactly the same mean- 
ing. Ngokazil is used at Badu. 


[Told by Father Mara at Badu, 20 October 1967] 

The people of Badu 1 went to the island of Kulbai-kulbai for a visit. For 
the most part the men either worked in their gardens or hunted during the 
day, but sometimes they played tukutuk sagul, the game in which spears 
are thrown at a target — a drifted log, or the trunk of a wild cotton-tree — 
to the accompaniment of the words: 

Muta gam muta. 
Sara gam sara. 

Tana ina muigubalgal ia-umaike. 
Pagane, pagane, pagane, pagane. 

At night they danced. 

1. Badu, a former village site at the 
south-western end of the island of 

2. This chant, used by young men while 
engaged in the sport of throwing 
spears at a target, was given — with 
only minor variations — in stories told 
at most islands of West Torres Strait. 
The first two lines were said to be 
"magic words" or "sorcery talk". 
Translated word-by-word, the last 
two lines read: "They here, muigu- 
balgal, speak. Spear! Spear! Spear! 
Spear!" No one was able to identify 
the muigubalgal. 


One morning while they were playing tukutuk sagul, they noticed turtle 
tracks on the beach of the neighbouring island, Zurat. Gabukaikai said : 
"I'll get the eggs." And he set out at once on a kauta (one half of a canoe 
which has split lengthwise), lying face downwards on top of it and paddling 
with his arms. 

Instead of returning to Kulbai-kulbai as soon as he had collected the 
turtle eggs, Gabukaikai went to the swamp on Zurat for the fruit of an 
aubau tree, which, he remembered, grew there. He ate all the fruit that 
had fallen to the ground and then climbed the tree. Presently, while he 
was plucking and eating ripe aubau, he looked down and saw a long-eared 
dogai approaching. Gabukaikai shook with fear. 

For a while the dogai was unaware of his presence at the top of the 
aubau tree, because she had her eyes on the ground, looking for fallen fruit. 
By and by she said out loud: "It is several days since I was here. Why is it 
there are no ripe fruit? What has happened to them?" And only then did 
she glance up at the top of the tree and see Gabukaikai. "So! You're the 
culprit, are you?" said the dogai. "Throw me some of the green fruit 

Despite his terror, Gabukaikai had been casting about for a means of 
escaping from the horrible creature. When she asked him to throw her 
some fruit, he threw one in the direction from which she had come. 
The dogai, who had very long legs, took one step towards it and reached 
for it with a long, skinny arm. He plucked another aubau, and this time he 
threw harder — the dogai had to take two steps in order to reach it. Gabu- 
kaikai plucked a third aubau and threw it with all his strength as far as he 

The aubau fell outside the dogai's cave home. The moment she began to 
move towards it, Gabukaikai flashed down the tree and fled to his half- 
canoe. Too late the dogai saw him running away. She tried to catch him, 
but, by the time she reached the beach, Gabukaikai was halfway across to 
Kulbai-kulbai, paddling for dear life. "Why did you run away from me?" 
she called after him. "I would not have harmed you." Gabukaikai did not 
answer. He did not stop paddling until he reached Kulbai-kulbai. 

His friends had observed his hurried departure from Zurat, and when 
they now asked the reason for it, Gabukaikai told them a half-truth. "I 
was chased by a dogai," he said. 

That night, Gabukaikai and the rest of the men on Kulbai-kulbai 
discussed how they should set about catching and killing the dogai. Next 
morning, armed with harpoon-spears and ropes, they went to Zurat in a 
body and walked to the cave in which the dogai lived. 

She was fast asleep when they arrived. She had been weaving a basket, 
the men saw, but, like all dogai, she was a sleepy-head and had dozed off 


in the middle of her work. The men whispered among themselves and 
decided to harpoon her in the shoulder. One of the men threw his harpoon- 
spear, aiming at that part of her body. 

This woke the dogai, and she screamed with pain. She caught sight of 
Gabukaikai and said: "I saw you yesterday. You stole fruit from my 
aubau tree, and then you ran away." To the other men she said: "He 
robbed me, but I did him no harm. Why have you come and hurt me?" 

The dogai tried to escape from the men by running away towards the 
eastern end of the island, but the harpoon was embedded in her shoulder, 
and the men held the rope that was knotted round the head of the harpoon, 
so she did not get far. She tried to bury herself in the sand, but the men 
pulled her out. She ran again, jabbering, "Dadipara, kadipara, dadipara, 
kadipara," 1 and tried to bury herself a second time. Again the men hauled 
her out. The third time the dogai tried to bury herself she chose a patch of 
very soft sand (saibardar) and was very nearly successful — she got so far 
down that the whole of the rope was played out. But the men put up a 
tremendous struggle and they managed to tear off her arm complete with 
shoulder-blade (zug). 

After that the men returned to Kulbai-kulbai, where they tied the zug 
to the log that they had been using for tukutuk sagul. They spent the rest of 
the day throwing spears at the zug. 

Muta garu muta. 
Sara garu sara. 

Tana inu muigubalgal ia-umaike. 
Pagane, pagane, pagane, pagane, 

intoned the men as they threw their spears. And every time a spear struck 
the zug, the dogai screamed with pain in the sand at Zurat. 

That night the older men said: "Dogai are strange creatures. This one 
may come in search of her arm." (They were right — the dogai was on her 
way to Kulbai-kulbai at that moment.) "If she can get close enough to her 
zug, it will spring towards her and rejoin itself to her body." 

In the end, everyone decided that the best thing to do was throw it into 
the sea between Zurat and Kulbai-kulbai. This they did, and it then turned 3 See f ootnote 1 of "Saurkeke", in the 
into the rock which has ever since been called Dogai Zug. section, "Stories from Mabuiag". 



[Told by Yopelli Panuel at Badu, 26 October 1967] 

1. Akul, a bivalve shell found in man 
grove swamps. 

2. Kusul, coconut shells used as water 

Long ago a man named Mutuk lived in Argan, a village on the west coast 
of Badu. He was expert at hunting and fishing — his luck never failed, and, 
besides, every fish he speared, every dugong he harpooned, was fat. But 
he never shared his catch with anyone but his own family. He gave nothing 
to the rest of the people in the village and, what was a more serious 
offence, he gave nothing to the sorcerers in the kod at the foot of the hill 
nearby. The sorcerers decided that Mutuk would have to be punished. 

The day the sorcerers used their power on Mutuk, he threw in his 
fishing line from morning till late afternoon without getting a bite and was 
on the point of returning home when he hooked a big fish. Slowly he 
drew it towards him, lifted it from the water, and saw it was a snapper 
(puad). Then it struggled and jumped until it freed itself from the hook 
and fell back into the sea. Mutuk leapt after it with his spear — straight into 
the open mouth of a shark (baidam), poised, tail down, waiting to receive 

At first Mutuk had no idea what he had fallen into. It was very dark, 
and he could see nothing. He felt round him with his hands and guessed 
that he was inside a shark. 

The shark swam north from Badu in the direction of Daudai. As it 
swam in deep water, Mutuk felt cold. When it swam over reefs, Mutuk 
felt warm. It swam for several days, and then Mutuk was tossed about 
inside its body as the shark threshed frenziedly in its efforts to escape from 
the sandbank on which it had stranded. Mutuk knew and felt what had 
happened, though he could not see, and immediately began to cut his 
way out with a sharp piece of akul 1 (shell) through the stomach and back 
of the shark which had swallowed him. It was slow work, but at last he 
saw daylight above him and, not long afterwards, clambered out. 

Mutuk looked around him. This was Boigu, the island to which his 
sister, Gainau, had gone when she married. Somehow he must find his 
sister and enlist her help before the Boigu people learnt that there was a 
stranger on their island. After a lot of thought, Mutuk decided to go and 
hide in a tree near the village well, Mai. All the women would go to Mai 
to fetch water, and, with any luck, he might see his sister alone when she 
came to fill her kusul. 2 

So Mutuk went to Mai. There was no one about when he reached it, 
so he walked down the bank to the water for a drink. As he bent low over 


the water, he saw his reflection — there was not a hair on his head. He was 
completely bald from having been inside baidam's belly for days on end. 
Mutuk drank, and then he climbed a tree beside the well and settled down 
to wait for his sister. 

Many women came to Mai during the afternoon. He could see them, 
but they did not see him, because he kept himself well hidden amongst 
the leaves. He began to think that his sister might not come, after all. Very 
late in the afternoon, however, he saw her approaching and, as she stooped 
to fill her kusul, waved a hand at her. Gainau saw it reflected in the water, 
and then, as he put his head outside the screen of leaves, her brother's face 
gazing up at her. "Mutuk!" she gasped. "Mutuk!" She looked away and 
back. Mutuk's hand waved to her again, and she heard his voice: "It is I, 
Mutuk, your youngest brother. Is that you, kuikuig (eldest child in a 
family)?" Mutuk climbed down from the tree, and the two embraced. 

Gainau agreed to help her brother, and the two set off for the village 
together. However, Gainau told him to wait outside it while she went 
ahead and talked to her husband. 

Mutuk's brother-in-law spoke to the other men in the village and told 
them that Mutuk should be allowed to stay because he had willingly given 
Gainau to him for wife. For that reason Mutuk was brought in to Boigu 
village as a welcome guest, and that night a feast was given in his honour. 
Three days later the Boigu men took him back to Badu by canoe. 

They appeared off Argan two days after the death feast (tarabau ai) had 
been held for Mutuk. The Boigu canoes set Mutuk ashore and immedi- 
ately afterwards set sail for Boigu without any of the Boigu men having 
set foot on Badu. 

Mutuk's wife and children ran to meet him. "If only you had come the 
day before yesterday!" she said, weeping for him. "That was the day of 
your farewell feast. Now you will be killed. Why did you not ask the 
Boigu canoes to wait for a while? We might all have gone with them." 

News of Mutuk's return came to the ears of the sorcerers at the kod. 
"Kill him," the sorcerers ordered the men of Argan. 

Mutuk saw the men coming towards him with their clubs and ran away. 
Many times he called back to his pursuers: "Spare me! I have a wife and 
children." They might as well not have heard. Through the scrub and 
along the beach, past Damanab and Gaubut, around the point called 
Barabaras, Mutuk ran for his life, the men of Argan close behind. They 
caught him between Barabaras and the rock called Tagain and clubbed 
him to death. Mutuk turned to stone. 

At the moment of his killing by the men of Argan, flying-foxes took off 
from Badu and flew to Boigu. When Gainau saw them she recognized 
them as a bad omen and realized that her brother was dead. 



[Told by Mota Charlie at Badu, 26 October 1967] 

This version of "Wawa" should be com- 
pared with that told by Moses Dau of 
Boigu, in the section, "Stories from 

While he was out on the reef fishing one day, a man saw a pair of mating 
turtles stranded in a shallow lagoon. He was far from his village, there was 
no one in sight, and he needed help to bring them in to the beach. So he 
called out at the top of his voice, 

Kauki adidiu niaiginga? 
Waurari saurari ipal! 
Waurari saurari (o)! 
Kabau (o)\ 

which was his way of saying: "Ho there! Are there any adiad (super- 
natural creatures of enormous size, bush devils) around here? I need help 
to bring mating turtles ashore." 

There was no reply, so he called again : 

Presently he heard a great rumbling sound and, when he looked in the 
direction from which it came, saw what looked like a hill moving to- 
wards him. As it came closer he saw that it was, however, not a hill, but 
Wawa, a hump-backed giant. 

Wawa said, in a very loud voice: "Where are the turtles?" 

"Out there on the reef, left behind by the tide," replied the man. 

Wawa and the man walked out to the lagoon. 

"Put the turtles on top of my hump," ordered Wawa, "and when you 
have done that, you climb on, too." 

Then Wawa walked back across the reef, the two turtles and the man 
on his hump, and deposited them on the ground behind the beach. 

"We'll cook the turtles at once," said the man, and he set about col- 
lecting firewood and stones for making an amai (earth-oven). 

When he began to cut up the female turtle, Wawa said: "Call me when 
you have cut the meat from the shell." This he did, and Wawa came and 
drank the blood that had collected in the shell and ate the guts. 

Kauki adidiu niaiginga? 
Waurari saurari ipal! 
Waurari saurari (o)! 
Kabau (o)! 


The man cut up the male turtle. 

Again Wawa drank the blood that collected in the shell and ate the guts. 
Then he lay down and went to sleep. 

The man replaced each lot of flesh in its own shell, laid both shells in 
the bottom of the amai, which he then sealed with leaves and sand, and sat 
down under a tree to cool off after his hard work. 

Wawa was snoring loudly by this time. The man began to think: 
"When they are cooked, I could remove the female turtle from the amai 
and leave the male for Wawa. If I were very quiet, I could do it without 
waking him." 

At the right moment, silently, stealthily, he withdrew the shell and 
flesh of the female turtle from the amai, raised it to his shoulder, and strode 

His wife and daughter ran to meet him, very happy to see that he 
brought with him a turtle that was already cooked. They ate every part 
of it, giving no share to their relatives and friends. 

Late in the afternoon Wawa woke up and went to the oven. When he 
saw only one turtle, the male, tough, dry, pale of flesh, he was filled with 
rage. However, he ate it. 

Then he summoned his fellow bush-creatures, and together they all 
marched to the village, arriving at sunset. They tracked the man to his 

Wawa stood beneath it, his company of bush devils (bupau uruil) just 
outside, and held out his kimus (arrow tipped with cassowary claw). The 
adiad began to chant: 

Umai muli muli pai muli (a) 
(A) namalka mata mitaka 
(A) max (e) 

The man said: "So, you want a dog (umai) to eat, do you?" He threw 
them a dog. 

It landed on the tip of Wawa's kimus. Wawa tossed it to his com- 
panions, who tore it apart while it was in mid-air and then gulped down 
the morsels. 

Burum muli muli pai muli (a)! 
(A) namalka mata mitaka 
(A) mai (e), 

chanted the bush devils. 

"So, you want a pig (burum) to eat, do you?" said the man. He threw out 
a pig. Wawa caught it on the tip of his kimus and tossed it to his com- 
panions who grabbed and devoured it as they had the dog. 


Kazi muli muli pat muli (a)! 
(A) namalka mata mitaka 
(A) max (e), 

chanted the bush devils. 

When they heard the word kazi (child) the husband and wife felt sick, 
for they had only one child, a girl. The husband went this way, the wife 
went that way, each of them begging relatives and friends for a child. 
But they returned without one, everyone they asked having said: "You 
did not share the turtle with us. You must give your own child to the bush 

Sadly the man and his wife returned to their house, where Wawa and 
his companions were now chanting : 

Kazi muli muli pai muli (a)! 
(A) namalka mata mitaka 
(A) mai (e). 

The parents called their daughter to them. They embraced her and wept 
on her. Then they threw her to Wawa, who caught her on the tip of his 

Wawa did not throw the girl to his fellows. Instead, he took her in his 
arms, and then he led the bush devils back to the bush where they belonged. 
As they disappeared from sight, they could still be heard singing: 

Kazi muli muli pai muli (a) I 
(A) namalka mata mitaka 
(A) mai (e). 



GOBA [Told by Siailo Baira at Badu, 25 October 1967] 

In former times, the men of Argan — a village on the west coast of Badu — 
used to catch many turtle. From the turtle, oil was obtained. 

The people of Argan once sent a man named Goba with a baler-shell 
of oil to give to their friends who lived at Koteid on the east coast of Badu, 
but when he reached the hill, Kianpalai, in the centre of the island, he put 
the shell on the ground and went on without it. 

At Koteid, Goba told the people that many turtle had been caught at 
Argan, and much oil obtained. "Why did our friends not send us some oil? 
Here we have nothing but biu sama (balls of cooked biu pulp) 1 to eat?" 
they said. In spite of their disappointment, however, they sent Goba away 
with a present of biu sama for Argan. 

On the way home, Goba stopped at Kianpalai and set down the basket of 
biu sama beside the baler-shell of oil. Then he mixed the oil with the biu 
sama and ate the lot. After that, he felt lazy, so he lay down and slept. 
When he woke up, he completed the rest of his journey. 

The people of Argan were very surprised to see him return empty- 
handed. "Why did our friends at Koteid not send us biu samaV they said. 
"Here we have nothing but turtle to eat." 

They sent Goba with another present of oil for Koteid. Again he arrived 
without it, having left it, as before, at Kianpalai. Goba set out from Koteid 
with biu sama for Argan, but they did not reach the people for whom they 
were intended — Goba feasted at Kianpalai as he had on the previous 

The people at each village began to suspect Goba of stealing. 

Once more Argan sent Goba to Koteid with oil. This time men fol- 
lowed him as far as Kianpalai and then waited, hidden in the scrub, for 
him to come back from Koteid. When they saw him begin to prepare his 
rich meal, they sprang out from the bushes, grabbed hold of him, threw 
him to the ground and covered him with stones. 

Goba died beneath the weight of the stones. You can still see the mound 
beneath which he lies buried at Kianpalai. 

1. Biu is a variety of mangrove. The 
pulp scraped from its seed-pods is 
first soaked and then cooked to ren- 
der it edible. (See footnote 1 of 
"Tawaka, the Greedy Man", in 
"Stories from Mabuiag", for the 
recipe for preparing biu sama given 
to me by Maurie Eseh at Mabuiag 
in October 1967.) 


A sarup is a castaway. 

In former times, a sarup's head was in 
danger no matter at which island he 
landed. Should his presence be suspected 
by the people of any island which he 
might chance to reach — including his 
own — he would be hunted and killed. 

An informant at Murray Island (in 
East Torres Strait) told me that if a canoe 
overturned more than about thirty yards 
from the shore, all who had been on 
board it became sarup. Their own people 
seeing the incident would not go to their 
help but would try to prevent them from 
landing. If any of the sarup succeeded in 
landing, they would be killed unless a 
powerful friend or relative chose to 
receive them and was able to intervene. 
It was thought that exposure to these 
things, the cold of deep water, salt, sun- 
burn, thirst, and shark-danger, affected 
sarup in such a way as to make strangers 
of them. 

He also said that this attitude towards 
sarup still exists in Torres Strait, and be- 
cause of it men who are shipwrecked are 
extremely reluctant to return home, in- 
stead preferring to go and live on the 
Australian mainland. When he spoke of 
his mother's cousin who had been on 
board a lugger which was lost during a 
cyclone, I asked him what he would feel 
towards this man if he should chance to 
meet him. He replied: "I would feel 
sorry for him, but he would be a stranger 
to me. He would not be the person he 
was before his boat went down." 

At Yam and Yorke Islands (in the 
Central group) and at Badu (in West 
Torres Strait), I was told that in the old 
days, once a man was presumed dead by 
his people, they performed his death 
dance. After that he was nothing to them 
but a markai, a ghost. So the sarup who 
managed to return to his island came 
either as a stranger to his people or, if his 
death dance had been performed, as a 
ghost. A sarup was a man without hope 
from the moment that his canoe sank. 

1. Surka, the jungle fowl or "scrub- 
hen", Megapodius tumulus. 


SARUP [Told by Yopelli Panuel at Badu, 30 October 1967] 

When the women of the village of Waruid went to the mangroves at 
Tulu to look for crabs one day, two of them, Sui and Milu, took a different 
path from the rest and came out on the beach from the scrub at Seseren- 
gagait. There Sui, who was a short distance from her companion, dis- 
covered in the sand above the high-water mark a man's footprints which 
led up from the sea. 

Sui was overjoyed: the footprints could only have been made by a 
sarup. She could hardly wait to tell her husband, Beug, so that he could 
hunt the wretch down. 

Sui said nothing to Milu or to the other women when she and Milu 
caught up with them, and she kept the discovery to herself all day long. 
She could not, however, give her mind to the job of looking for crabs, 
so that, when it was time to go home, she had only three, whereas everyone 
else had many. 

When the men and children of Waruid went to meet the women at the 
end of the day, Beug immediately noticed that his wife had something on 
her mind — her footsteps dragged, she did not chatter like the rest of the 
women, and she had brought back very few crabs. So he said to her: 
"What have you to tell me? Is there something the matter? Speak out." 

The secret burst from Sui. "My good husband," she replied, "this 
morning I found tracks made by a samp. There is a sarup on the island. I 
have found a head for you!" 

Beug made plans. He told his wife to prepare food for him and then go 
to sleep. He himself would make ready his bow and arrows and grease his 
club (gabagaba). He would set out when surka 1 called just before daybreak. 

At dawn next morning Beug saw the footprints at Seserengagait. 
"My wife was not mistaken," he said. "These are indeed the tracks of a 
sarup," and he began to follow them. 

They led north — through Mazar, past Maiwal Kula, along the beach, 
into the scrub, and back to the beach at Kotinab. They climbed a hill and 
returned once again to the beach, this time at Kurturnaiai Wak (wak, bay). 
Beug saw that he was nearing the end of the hunt, for the last prints were 
newly made. When he reached the point called Dugu Ngur, he heard the 


sarup crying. "I hear you," thrilled Beug, "I hear you. You are up there 
on the hill, very close to me. I am going to drink your blood. Your head 
is mine." Beug bit his tongue in the frenzy of bloodlust. 

The sarup sat on a rock, looking towards Gebar, his home island, weep- 
ing bitterly for himself, for the two companions who had set out with 
him and been drowned when their canoe overturned, and for the wife and 
children whom he would never again see. 

Beug was now so close to the sarup that he heard him choke out the 
words: "Gebar, you are far away. There is a fog between me and you." 
He crept closer, and then he bent down and dislodged a stone in order to 
make a sudden noise. The sarup saw Beug and sprang to his feet ; he backed 
away, whimpering: "Don't kill me. I am a friend. I have a wife and 
children. I cannot go back to Gebar, because it is too far away." 

Beug leapt at him. "Look up at the sun!" he screamed. "You will never 
see it again. Your head is mine!" and he smashed the man's skull with his 
gabagaba. "Sui, my good wife," he said as he struck. 

Beug grabbed the sarup's head, severed it with his upi (bamboo behead- 
ing-knife), and let the useless body drop to the ground. Then he danced 
down to the beach and washed the head in the sea. Afterwards he made a 
grass basket, 2 put the head in it, and set out for home. 

"I only speared turtle eggs," he told his wife when she asked if he had 
found the sarup. "Cook them," he said, as he handed her the basket. 

Sui shouted with joy when she saw what was in it. She ran to her 
husband and rubbed noses with him. 

The news spread through the village. All the men came to visit Beug 
and praise him for what he had done. Each held the head in his hands and 
said: "If only I had been there! If only I had had the luck to know about 
the sarup, this head would be mine." 

Beug stored the head with others that he had taken. 

2. The kind that is made on the spot 
when turtle eggs are found. 



SOBAI [Told by Mota Charlie at Badu, 25 October 1967] 

The two brothers, Waii and Sobai, were head men of the village of 
Waruid. They were renowned as fighters, having successfully fought 
against the men of the other villages on Badu and of islands around Badu. 

At that time, the leading warrior at Tudu (Warrior Island) was a man 
named Kaigas. He had heard of Waii and Sobai and, jealous of his own 
reputation, told the men of Tudu that he wanted to go to Badu and fight 
the two brothers. The men of Tudu told him that Waii and Sobai would 
cut off his head, but they agreed to accompany him. 

The Tudu canoes were run in at Kotinab, at the north-eastern end of 
Badu. Three men were sent to spy out the land and find out where Waii 
and Sobai lived. When they learnt this, they returned to Kotinab. The 
warriors put on their fighting gear and set out in two columns led by 
Kaigas. It was then about midnight. 

That evening, Pitai, Waii's eldest son, had gone to visit a girl, and the 
pair were talking outside her home when Pitai caught a glimpse of men 
moving among the trees and bushes nearby. Immediately he went to his 
father and told him what he had seen, and both then watched carefully for 
signs that an enemy was about to attack Waruid. There were none. Waii 
said that what Pitai had seen was a mekat, the lighter colour of the air in 
gaps between trees. But Pitai insisted that he had seen dan (head-dresses 
of white feathers), 1 and after that, Waii spread the alarm to the whole 

Just before daybreak, Waii and Pitai came out of their house and saw 
the two lines of Tudu warriors with Kaigas at the head. Waii said to 
Pitai: "Go back inside the house. I'll fight these men single-handed." 

Waii stole silently towards Kaigas who was unsuspecting of his enemy's 
approach until the moment when Waii moved in the action of shooting 
the arrow from his bow — he was standing on dry cabbage-palm leaves and 
one crackled under his feet. Kaigas, hearing the sound, crouched down to 
listen. Waii's arrow found him in the back and killed him. 

The Tudu warriors saw it and yelled their battle-cry: "I-I-I-U-O!" 
It was answered by the fighting men of Waruid: "Imano! Imano! Imano!" 
1. Made from the feathers of the whke Wan and Sobai shouted : "We two, Waii and Sobai, fight together all the 

reef heron, karbai. way. 


The fighting was long and hard. But the Badu men in the end put to rout 
their Tudu opponents and chased them back to Kotinab. They pressed 
them hard and killed many. When a Badu man killed a Tudu man, he 
placed his personal mark on the body — a stalk of grass, perhaps, or a twig — 
to identify it and enable him to collect every head which was rightfully 
his when the fighting was over. 

Outside a small village, Kudungurki (a very short man) overtook a 
Tudu man who turned and stood his ground, bow at the ready. Kudun- 
gurki, who was very quick-witted, shot an arrow at his enemy's bow and 
split it lengthwise. A mother and daughter who saw this feat were so 
filled with admiration for Kudungurki that both instantly wanted him. 

Another Tudu man tried to escape his pursuers by hiding in a waterhole. 
A Badu man heard him jump into the water, ran to the edge of the hole, 
waited for him to come up to the surface, and then shot him in the right 
side of the neck. 

Those of the fighting men of Tudu who survived the defeat swam out to 
their canoes as soon as they reached Kotinab. 

One man who had come to Badu with the men of Tudu had had no 
part in the fighting. He was a Badu man who had married a Tudu girl, 
and, when all the other men went to fight Waii and Sobai, he had been 
left behind in charge of the canoes. So angry and so humiliated were the 
Tudu warriors because of the crushing blow delivered by Badu, that no 
sooner had they boarded their canoes than they killed this man, cut off his 
head, and waved it at the top of a poling stick towards the victors standing 
on the beach. 

The Tudu canoes sailed home. 

Waii and Sobai lived to be old men. When they died, the people whom 
they had led for so long honoured them by taking their heads to Kanig, 
a small island several miles from Badu. The heads of the warrior brothers, 
Waii and Sobai, were never to be confused with those of lesser men. 2 

2. The skulls of Waii and Sobai are still 
at Kanig. 



[Told by Wipa Waiat at Badu, 19 October 1967] 


1. Very handsome young man, 
bupurul kazi". 

2. Zugu is the name of a reef close to 
Mabuiag; tiam, creature (here, shark). 
The warriors of Mabuiag are as 
deadly as the shark of the reef, Zugu. 
They are that shark. 

3. Garaz, stone fish-trap on the reef. 
The place derives its name from the 

The Mualgal killed Pitai of Badu, a very handsome young man. 1 This 
story tells how the fighting men of Badu avenged him. 

They sent word to Mabuiag by canoe asking for the help of its warriors 
— Zugutiam 2 — to take the head of the man who had killed Pitai. It was 
readily promised, and a day fixed for the Mabuiag men to come to Badu. 

Two equal heaps of chips were made by placing one chip at a time in 
each heap in turn. Each chip represented a day, and chips were added to 
each heap until the desired number of days had been counted off. One 
heap remained at Mabuiag, the other was taken back to Badu. Every day, 
a chip was removed from the heap at Mabuiag and a chip from the heap 
at Badu. When none remained in the heap at Mabuiag, that island sent its 
canoes to Badu. When none remained in the heap at Badu, that island 
expected the arrival of the canoes from Mabuiag. 

On the day thus appointed, the Mabuiag canoes made their landing at 
Garaz 3 on Badu. Those who were married men made their way overland 
to Koteid. The single men stayed with the canoes and brought them 
round after dark when they could not be seen by watching eyes across the 
channel at Mua. 

As soon as the single men of Mabuiag arrived at Koteid, a feast began. 
It was held in the dark. Every fire had been extinguished. No torches 
flared. Nothing betrayed the presence of Zugutiam on Badu. 

Late that night the warriors of Badu and Mabuiag poled their canoes 
across to Parbar on Mua, where they made their landing inside Kai Kasa 
(a tidal creek) amongst the mangroves. They slept there until early morn- 
ing, and then they advanced on the Mualgal. 

4. South of Parbar. An older name for 
Poid is Adam. 

After the death of Pitai, the fighting men of Mua went to Poid 4 and 
waited for the retaliatory raid by Badu. For many days they kept watch 
towards the south-west and the north-west, from either of which directions 
the attack by Badu would be made. They saw nothing to suggest that their 
enemies were preparing to fight — nothing to indicate that Zugutiam was 
about to strike. 

Even when the warriors of Badu and Mabuiag were almost upon them, 
only one of the Mualgal had any presentiment of danger. This man, 


Sibari, said: "Is that dari (head-dresses) I see? Are those two lines of men 
coming towards us?" His companions laughed at him. "Where are the 
canoes?" they scoffed, their eyes fixed on the approaches from Badu. 

Sibari sprang to his feet, dusted himself and said angrily: "I'm leaving. 
I intend to live." As he ran away, the jeers of the Mualgal followed him. 
He had gone only as far as Mug 5 when he heard the cracking of skulls at 
Poid. "My poor friends. Zugutiam has struck," grieved Sibari. 

He ran until he was exhausted and had to slow down to get his breath 
back. He walked a few steps and began running again. Occasionally he 
looked back at Poid — the dust of battle rose in the air as if whipped up 
by a whirlwind. 

When he reached Waga, the women and children, who had stayed there 
while the men were at Poid, ran out and met him. "Where are the rest of 
the men?" they asked. "What men?" replied Sibari. "Of all who went to 
Poid, only one survives. I am husband for all of you." The women and 
children wailed. Not until the young boys became men would Mua fight 

again. 5. Poid obtained water at Mug. 


Bu shells were blown on board the canoes as the victors poled back to 
Badu. The skull of the man who had killed Pitai capped a spear driven into 
the bow of the leading canoe. 

When the warriors of Badu and Mabuiag leapt ashore, dancing began. 
"For how long have we wanted this head? Not until Zugutiam struck did 
we get it," said the people of Badu. The dancing continued all night long. 

The people of Badu showed their gratitude to the people of Mabuiag 
for their help in avenging Pitai by giving them half of their island. From 
that day, all the land on Badu north of a line drawn from Kulkai on the 
east coast to Warn on the west coast belonged to Mabuiag. 


stories from 

MABUIAG Jervis Island 

guguzina umim " 


MABUIAG Qervis Island) From the map drawn by William Min at M-ih'iiag, Srptc 

mhrr 1 %7 


TORRES STRAIT [Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, 

6 October 1967] 

Long ago when animals were close relatives of men and could freely take 
human form, there were many goannas and lizards and snakes living at 
Nelgi (Double Island). Their leader was Walek, a frill-necked lizard. 

In those days there was no fire in Torres Strait, and cooking was done 
on stones heated by the sun. For example, when a fish was caught it was 
placed on top of a hot stone. As soon as a part of the fish became soft, the 
fish was removed from the stone and the cooked part eaten, and then the 
rest of the fish was returned to the stone for cooking, bit by bit. The 
reptiles at Nelgi often wished they had something better than sun-heated 
stones for cooking their food, and as they often saw smoke rising up from 
the northern mainland, the idea began to take shape amongst them that it 
might be connected with heat and cooking. One day they asked Karum, 
the monitor lizard, to go and find out. 

So Karum set out. But he did not go far and was soon back at Nelgi, 
trying to warm his cold body on top of a rock. "The tide was too strong 
for me. I could make no headway against it," he told the other reptiles. 

At the time, Walek was sunning himself on top of a white ants' nest. 
"Walek," said the reptiles, "will you go to Daudai and find out about 
smoke?" "Yes," said Walek, "I'll go." 

Before he left Nelgi, the reptiles hung seedpod rattles around his neck 
and placed a head-dress of white feathers on his head. "Watch the islands 
to the north," he said as he ran down to the sea. "When you see smoke go 
up on those islands you will know I am on my way home." 

Walek, whose legs were stronger than Karum's, swam until he reached 
Daudai. He landed at Mawat, changed into human form, and went to 
Masingara, where his sister, a woman named Ubu, lived. Walek told her 
how food was cooked at Nelgi and, seeing her cook food with fire, asked 

Walek, who brought fire to Torres Strait 
from the northern mainland 

Artist Ngailu Bani 

This myth was also told at Kubin (by 
Lizzie Nawia, 3 November 1967) and at 
Saibai (by Alfred Aniba, 8 September 
1967). Each of these versions is slightly 
different from the one told at Mabuiag. 
Lizzie Nawia gave Zuna (a small island 
off Prince of Wales Island) as the home of 
Walek (whom she called Waleku) and 
the reptiles, and she said that Walek was 
accompanied to Daudai and back by 
Sigai, the flying-fish. She also said that 
Waleku ran across Mua. Alfred Aniba 
used the Saibai name, Iku (instead of 
Walek or Waleku), and named Muri 
(Mt. Adolphus Island) as the home of the 

No one in East Torres Strait told me 
the story of how fire was brought to 
Torres Strait. 

1. Get pudan, the old style of greeting 
and leave-taking. 

2. Surka is the mound-building jungle 
fowl or "scrub-hen". 

if he might have a live coal to take back to his people. Ubu agreed to let 
him have it and invited him to spend the night with her. She promised to 
give him the coal in the morning. 

Before he fell asleep that night, Walek noticed that the coals in her 
cooking fire went out, one by one, and became black. He observed, also, 
that his sister had coals of fire between the fingers of her right hand. These 
coals glowed and did not fade. 

Next morning, Ubu gave Walek a coal from her cooking fire, and 
Walek said goodbye to her and walked away. No sooner was he out of 
her sight than he changed into his lizard form, ran down to the sea at 
Mawat, and extinguished the coal in the water. Then he ran all the way 
back to Masingara, and approached his sister in human form. "My coal 
of fire went out," he said. 

Ubu gave him another one. This time, in saying goodbye to her, Walek 
asked her to scrape palms with him, 1 and as their fingers curved into each 
other's hands, he hooked one of his fingers around a coal between two of 
her fingers and removed it. Then he ran away as fast as he could, popped 
the coal into his mouth, changed into his lizard form, and made all speed 
to the beach at Mawat. 

"Come back!" called Ubu. "You have stolen Surka's fire. The coals 
between my fingers belong to my children. Bring back the coal that 
belongs to Surka, 2 my daughter." But Walek paid no heed to his sister's 
plea, and soon he was far from Masingara, swimming towards Saibai. 

He went ashore at Saibai, set fire to some grass with the coal, and after 
returning the coal to his mouth, swam to Gebar (Two Brothers Island). 
There, also, he went ashore and lit a fire. He lit fires at Gitalai (Pole Island), 
Sauraz (Burke Island), and Nagi (Mt. Ernest Island), and the reptiles at 
Nelgi, seeing these fires, said: "Walek is coming. Walek is on his way 
back from Daudai." 

When Walek reached Nelgi, he threw the coal to his brothers, ran to a 
white ants' nest, and lay on top of it with his mouth open. His tongue had 
been badly burnt, so his brothers brought healing medicine and dressed 
the sore place. 

In that manner fire was brought to Torres Strait. From Nelgi it was 
taken to other islands in baler shells, and soon every island had fire. 

Walek's tongue healed, but a scar remained, and it never faded. It is still 
there today. Go to Badu or Mua and look at the tops of white ants' nests. 
Before long you are sure to come across Walek sunning himself on top of 
one of them, Walek the frill-necked lizard who carried a coal of fire in his 
mouth from Masingara to Nelgi. And when he opens his mouth, you will 
see on his tongue the red scar left by the coal of fire which he stole from 
between two fingers of Ubu's right hand. 



QUARRELLED [Told by Dakanatai Kiris at Mabuiag, 

7 October 1967] 

Once upon a time two sisters, Widul and Marte, lived with their brother 
Umai at the north-western end of Mabuiag. Widul had a daughter named 
Sarabar, and Marte had a daughter named Iadi. 

One day Widul and Marte quarrelled. Widul threw a spear at Marte, 
which split her down the middle, at the same instant as Marte threw 
several spears at Widul. Marte's spears pierced the top of Widul's skull and 
stuck in it. 

Umai put a stop to the fight between the two sisters — as their brother, 
he had the right and the duty to do it — by moving them far apart from 
each other and sending them to places of his choosing on the reef which 
surrounds Mabuiag. 

The sisters and their daughters became islands. Umai turned to stone 
and has ever since stood guard over them at the edge of the passage 
through the reef between Marte and another island, Aipus. He can be seen 
at low tide. Widul stays south of him and keeps her small daughter, 
Sarabar, behind her. Marte's place is north of him, and she also keeps her 
daughter, Iadi, behind her. 

For a long time, pandanus trees grew at the top of Marte — they were the 
spears that were thrown at her by her sister, Widul. 

KAMUTNAB [Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, 

5 October 1967] 

Kaumain, head man of Pulu, 1 had many wives of whom the most import- 
ant was Kamutnab. This woman was his first wife, and she had borne him 
many children. The other wives were childless. 

People often came to visit Kaumain, and every time, just before a party 
was due to arrive, he told Kamutnab to shave off his beard. It was a task 
she heartily disliked. 

One day Kaumain received a message from the people of Bau 2 asking { pdu . $ a ^ ^ high 
if they might come to Pulu. Kaumain was agreeable and, as usual, called within the home reef of Mabuiag. 

Kamutnab to come and shave him. 2. On Mabuiag. 


This time Kamutnab 'flew into a tantrum, picked up the bamboo knife 
(upi), advanced on her husband — and sliced off his double chin as well as 
his beard. Furious, Kaumain ordered her to leave Pulu. So Kamutnab 
gathered up her children, walked out into the sea with them, and sat 

At that instant, Kamutnab and her children turned to stone — and so, 
also, did Kaumain and the remaining wives. None of them has moved 
since that day, not even the baby whom Kamutnab was carrying on top 
of her head. Kaumain, chinless, with all but one of his many wives at his 
feet, stands at the southern end of Pulu staring at the wife who took his 
children with her when she moved out and sat down in the sea. 

[After finishing the story, Maurie Eseli added this detail]: 

Kamutnab and her children have been given another name by Europeans 

Kaumain staring at his wife, Kamutnab, — they call them Hamelin Boulders, 
and her children (Hamelin Boulders) 


[Told by Dakanatai Kiris at Mabuiag, 
25 September 1967] 

Long ago when there was a village on the northern side of the island of 
Pulu, the boys and girls who lived there spent far too much time making 
string figures (wameal). They became obsessed with the game. Their 
parents tried to put a stop to it, but the children would not obey. 

One night a huge boulder fell from the sky and killed every one of the 

This enormous rock is still at Pulu. It is called Augadal Kula (sacred stone). 



[Told by Ephraim Bani at Mabuiag, 9 October 1967] 

Two brothers, Deibui and Teikui, used to go fishing with their spears on 
the home-reef at the south-western end of Mabuiag. They were excellent 
fishermen and always came home with long strings offish. 

But they sometimes quarrelled. Then, instead of cooking their fish on 
one spit (iu) — as was their custom when they were friendly — they parted 
company and cooked on separate spits. 

The spirits of Deibui and Teikui went up to the sky, south-west of 
Mabuiag, and became two small, white star-clouds (kunar). 

The brothers behave in the sky as they did on earth, quarrelling and 
making up, only to quarrel again. Sometimes the star-clouds, Deibui and 
Teikui, are far apart, but they always move in towards each other after 
that. The kind of regard the brothers have for one another at any par- 
ticular time is plain to be seen by all. 

The human forms abandoned by Deibui and Teikui became rocks. 1 
Young men leave food at these rocks before they fish on that part of the 
reef where the two brothers fished before they went up to the sky. The 
offering ensures that, like Deibui and Teikui, they, too, will go home with 
long strings of fish. 

1 . At their former home, near Burupa- 
gaizinga, the spot at which Kuiam's 
father landed when he arrived at 
Mabuiag from the southern mainland. 



OF KUIAM [Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, October 1967] 

1. Kuiamu live in Waterold [Waterhole, a 
spring of fresh water at the back of the 
beach not far from Cape Direction] on 
Millines land [Mainland, i.e., the southern 
mainland, zei dagam daudai]. From 
Redrockey to Redecstsen [Cape 
Direction] Kuiamu always troubled 
[travelled] anting [hunting] for Cangaro 
[kangaroos] and Posomes [possums]. 
When he want eat dugong he go with 
little canow cross to Loz [Lloyd] Island. 
— Copied from Esili Peter's Note- 

Esili Peter was born at Mabuiag in 
1886. His daughter, Mauari (or Mau- 
rie) lent me her father's Notebook 
during my visit to Mabuiag in 
October 1967. 

2. Kuiamu's magic travelled with this 
sound to the man whom he intended 
to injure. 

3. The tip of Cape York Peninsula. 

4. To the east of Bagau Kasa, in the 
area called Bau. The present-day 
Government school-teacher's house 
is at Budaukuik. 

5. . . . bite is tonge, meaning saw [show] is 
magice to this man . . . 

— from Esili Peter's Notebook. 

When Kuiamu, a man who had magical powers, decided to leave his home 
at Waterhole on the southern mainland, 1 he first plucked a stalk of grass 
and threw it to obtain the bearing he should take. The stalk fell to the north 
of where he stood, so he travelled north. 

After he had been walking for some time, he saw a man coming to- 
wards him. This man, too, was following a route indicated by thrown 
stalks of grass. Kuiamu screeched at him like a cockatoo, 2 at which the man 
collapsed on the ground, twisting his left arm and his left leg in falling. 
After he had passed the stranger, Kuiamu plucked a stalk of grass and 
threw it back at him; whereupon the man immediately stood up, com- 
pletely recovered from his injury. Both men then continued on their 
separate ways, Kuiamu to the north, the other to the south. 

At Paira, 3 Kuiamu saw that island-studded sea lay ahead of him. He 
had magic which enabled him to walk on water, and this he now em- 
ployed, attaching a piece of wood to each of his legs and then bending his 
legs backwards at the knees. Thus shod, in a kneeling posture, Kuiamu 
walked on. After passing by many islands, he came to Nagi and from that 
island crossed to the large island of Mua where he landed at Pabi. He 
walked through Kubin and then went up the west coast as far as Parbar, 
thence across the narrow stretch of intervening water to the island of Badu. 
Upon landing, he found the remains of an old camping spot. There was 
no one about, and he walked on to the northern end of Badu. To the 
north lay yet another large island — Mabuiag. 

At Mabuiag, Kuiamu walked ashore at Burupagaizinga and removed 
his magic "shoes". He plucked a stalk of grass and threw it, again obtaining 
the direction: north. This led him round the point called Dada Ngur to the 
small creek, Bagau Kasa, where he sat down and looked for signs that 
would tell him if there were people on the island. 

That day, a man who lived at Budaukuik 4 had gone into the scrub to cut 
vine for rope. As soon as he came out, he saw Kuiamu and crept towards 
him, intending to kill him. Kuiamu, however, heard him approaching from 
behind and leapt to his feet, biting his tongue 5 in the rage which instantly 
possessed him. Woomera and spear at the ready, Kuiamu was about to kill 
his would-be assailant, when the latter made overtures of friendship. 


After scraping palms with Kuiamu, this man daubed Kuiamu's left arm 
with clay in the manner to show that he enjoyed the friendship and pro- 
tection of a man of Budaukuik and, having made signs to Kuiamu that 
he should sit down and wait, hurried to his people to tell them the news. 
His two brothers and the head man consented to Kuiamu's coming to live 
with them. 

One afternoon while the men of Bau were on the beach throwing spears 
at the trunk of a cotton tree for target practice, Kuiamu sat on the sand 
watching the sport. He laughed at their efforts, for these men sometimes 
missed in their aim, and, when presently some of the men told his adoptive 
brothers to invite him to join in the play, he was amused, knowing his 
superiority to all the men of this place at spear-throwing. His turn came at 
the end of a round. He threw, and his spear went straight through the log, 
splitting it in two and burying itself in the sand beyond. "My husband!" 
screamed Kuinam, one of the women onlookers, for she immediately 
desired Kuiamu. Tomagan, her brother, took her by the hand and led her 
to Kuiamu, beside whom he made her sit. In that fashion, Kuinam was 
made Kuiamu's wife. 

For a time, Kuiamu and Kuinam lived at Budaukuik, but one day, 
Kuiamu told his wife that they would make their home apart from the 
rest of the people. They built their house at Gumu. 

There was constant friction, however, between Kuiamu and Kuinam, 
for the custom of the people to whom Kuiamu belonged on the mainland 
was to sleep out-of-doors beside a fire at night-time, and in this he per- 
sisted, despite Kuinam's protests that he should sleep indoors on a mat. 
At last Kuiamu became so angry with Kuinam's nagging at him about it 
that he left Gumu one night and returned to his old home at Waterhole. 
The next morning, Kuinam followed his tracks to the beach and down to 
the edge of the sea. 

Tomagan, learning of Kuiamu's departure, invited his sister to return to 
Budaukuik and make her home with him, but she refused to do so, saying 
that she must remain at the place where her husband had left her. Instead, 
Tomagan went and lived at Gumu. 

Kuinam was pregnant at the time that Kuiamu deserted her. To the son 
who was born to her she gave the name Kuiam. 


The youth Kuiam became curious about the woomera and spears which 
his mother kept in her house at Gumu and one day asked whose they were. 
Upon learning that they had belonged to his father, he asked if he might 
have them and thereafter practised with them daily until he was expert 
in their use. 


6. The zugubal of West Torres Strait 
looked like humans while they in- 
habited the island world, but they 
were super-human in their strength 
and performance. 

Tagai and Kang, leaders of the 
zugubal mentioned in the story of 
Kuiam, could increase their stature 
to giant proportions. They possessed 
powers which enabled them to 
summon thunder, lightning, wind, 
and rain to their aid, and they could 
control the moods of the sea. They 
introduced the method of catching 
turtle with sucker-fish, and they 
imposed conditions on the habits 
and habitat of sea-creatures. 

The zugubal went up to the sky and 
became bright stars (zugubal tituil) 
soon after humans appeared in Torres 
Strait. As stars, the zugubal ever after- 
wards ushered in seasons, and caused 
rain, wind, tides, and calms. When 
they "dived into the sea" (disappear- 
ed from the night sky for a time), 
they splashed up water which fell as 
rain. They (in particular, Tagai) 
directed men in their gardening 
activities. They were guides for men 
at sea. 

7. Zugubau pula, zugub stone or rock. 

8. Naigai dagam daudai, literally, north- 
side mainland, i.e. New Guinea. 

9. When Tagai and Kang dive into the 
sea, they splash up water. This water 
is the first rain of the north-west 
season, kuki. Tagai's left hand is the 
Southern Cross. 

10. The zugubal whom Tagai sent to the 
sky are seen as constellations known 
to the people of Mabuiag as Dedeal 
(eight stars), Gapukuik (five stars), 
Gitalai (six stars), Bu (eight stars), 
Usal (six stars), and Utiamal (six 

Usal and Utiamal are the zugubal 
whom Tagai bound. The other four 
constellations are made up of the 
zugubal who floated away unbound 
in formations which looked like the 
breast-bone of a turtle (dedeal), the 

As he grew to manhood, Kuiam's thoughts turned to fighting, and the 
idea took shape in his mind that, in combination with his skill at handling 
his father's weapons, the wearing of emblems endowed with his own magic 
power would make him invincible. These emblems he would carve from 
the shell of the hawksbill turtle (unuwa) ; to obtain the shell of unuwa he 
needed the help of zugubal. 6 

The day that Kuiam reached this decision, the zugubal were at Maiil 
Dan, a lagoon in a reef to the south of Mabuiag. Their leaders, two brothers 
— Tagai, who was keen-sighted, and Kang, who was blind — left the canoe 
and went walking on the reef to spear fish. It was very hot, and before 
long the zugubal who had stayed behind with the canoe felt thirsty. The 
only drinking water belonged to Tagai and Kang — it was stored in a 
cluster of coconut shells suspended from the side of the canoe into the sea 
to keep it cool. The zugubal crew swam to ease their suffering, but this in 
no way relieved their thirst, and at last the temptation to broach the 
brothers' drinking vessels became so strong that, one by one, they pierced 
the coconut shells with fish-teeth and drank. 

Tagai and Kang caught no fish; they, too, were hot and thirsty. When 
they returned to the canoe, Tagai accidentally bumped one of the coconut 
shells as he was climbing aboard, causing the rest to clatter against each 
other. Tagai heard the hollow empty sound and was furious with his 
crew for their theft of the water. "I will kill every one of them," he 
whispered to Kang. 

The brothers commanded that the canoe be poled to a big rock 7 some 
distance away on the reef, and there ordered the crew to dive for crayfish. 
Tagai went to the stern and drove his poling stick into the eyes of each 
zugub as he returned, crayfish in hand, to the surface of the water. Soon all 
the crew were dead. Their bodies drifted around the canoe, empty eye 
sockets streaming strands of blood, which, as they were carried away by 
the current, formed what looked like a rope of blood to Tagai. 

Some of the dead zugubal Tagai bound together with vine. The rest 
floated away in groups. All he sent far-away to the sky at the east of the 
northern mainland {naigai dagam daudai), 9 ' saying, as he despatched them: 
"Later, Kang and I, too, will make our home in the sky, but you will 
never visit us. When you wish to appear in the sky, use the zugubaTs 
signal, thunder; hearing it, Kang and I will dive into the sea, and you 
may then travel south of Daudai. Do not, however, come to that part of 
the sky which is south of Mabuiag — your place is to the north of that 
island." 10 Tagai gave them work to do in their future home, and then he 
and Kang returned to Gumu, there to be met by Kuiam. 



Kuiam gave Tagai and Kang their orders. They were to catch a sucker- 
fish (gapu) and use it to obtain the turtle that he wanted. His instructions 
were given in detail; nothing was left to chance. When the brothers left 
Gumu, they understood that Kuiam required every part of the turtle to 
be brought back to him. 

Tagai and Kang planned their task. They decided to go to Tiki, a small 
island off the southern tip of Badu, for octopus bait; to Tidiu, a reef, to 
catch gapu, the sucker-fish; to Garirai, a reef which lies to the north of 
Mabuiag, for unuwa, the hawksbill turtle; and to Mawai (Wednesday 
Island) to remove the flesh of unuwa from its carapace. 

They were at Tiki very early the following morning, but, try as they 
might, they could not find an octopus until the sun was high in the sky. 
Then they saw a big one. "You are a zugub octopus," they told it, "and you 
are henceforth subject to this rule: you may never leave your hiding places 
in the rocks at Tiki until late in the morning." 11 

In order to reach Tidiu, the brothers poled their way north through the 
passage between Badu and Mua. A strong wind blew from the south-east. 
Off Adam 12 they caught a big white cat-fish, a waibe, which, when it was 
placed in the bottom of the canoe, spoke in grunts. The brothers thought 
it said : 

Peokainu peokainu kazia sauwaia ririma sasabi Sarabaria 
Muruka Waibenia (e). 

(I lie here gasping for breath — I, who have relatives at 
Sarbar, Muri, and Waiben.) 13 

Using octopus for bait, Tagai and Kang caught a sucker-fish at Tidiu 
and then poled to the reef called Garirai, where they soon captured a 
hawksbill turtle (unuwa). 14 

From Garirai Tagai and Kang made all speed to Mawai. They used their 
elbows as poling sticks — as they had done since the moment of their 
setting out that morning — for that was the custom of zugubal who wished 
to travel fast by canoe. At Mawai they carried the turtle ashore and cut 
the flesh from its shell. After this had been done, they replaced the flesh in 
the shell, carried it to the canoe, and left for Gumu. 

Kuiam came down to the beach to meet them. There he spread a mat 
on the sand and laid out every part of the turtle — carapace, flesh, and 
organs. The liver and kunai baba (the two parts right at the tail end of the 
shell) 15 were missing. He asked Tagai and Kang if they had eaten the liver. 
"We ate nothing," they said. "We can only have forgotten to replace it 
in unuwa 's shell-back," they told him. They sped back to Mawai to search 
for the liver and the kunai baba and found them underneath the leaves upon 
which they had placed the turtle for cutting up. 

10. (continued) 

head of a sucker-fish {gapu kuik), a 
crab (gitalai), and a bu shell (Syrinx 
aruanus Linne). 

Usal is known to Europeans as 
Pleiades, the Seven Sisters. 

The Tagai myth is an important 
one at Murray Island in East Torres 
Strait, but there Tagai, his friend, and 
his crew are known simply as men 
who afterwards became constella- 
tions. They are said to have come 
from Deudai (New Guinea). 

Tagai is associated with gardening 
at Murray Island by a particular 
group of people. He is also associated 
with gardening at Saibai — North- 
West Torres Strait — by the people 
at that island who have deibau (a yam) 
as their augad (totem). 

11. This is still the case. Octopus are 
never found at Tiki early in the day. 

12. On Mua. 

13. This translation was suggested by 
Fr Mara at Badu. 

14. Unuwa was caught at the spot called 

15. Used for making fish-hooks. 


16. Zugubau iawarau gub: literally, zugub 
journey wind. 

All that Kuiam had given them to do they had done, and that in less 
than a day. But they were by now very hungry, so, during their journey 
back to Gumu they anchored at Usar, a rock off the north-western end 
of Mua, Kang staying in the canoe while Tagai went ashore to look for 

Tagai found a tall, heavily-laden kupa tree. Increasing his stature until 
he stood higher than the tree, he began to pluck and eat the ripe, white 
fruit. He spat out the seeds to the ground below. 

Now this kupa tree was the property of a woman of Mua. She had not 
visited it for several days, and chose to come to it while Tagai was robbing 
it. She brought with her a number of baskets to fill. However, just as she 
set them down, a seed which bore teeth-marks fell close to her. Then she 
noticed Tagai's feet and, following up the length of his body with her 
eyes, recognized a zugub. Terrified, she ran from the spot. 

Tagai, glancing down, saw the woman and knew that she would tell 
her people she had seen him. So he stamped his feet, and there came 
thunder and lightning and a deluge of rain. But it was a very narrow storm, 
limited in extent to the path taken by the woman in her mad, erratic flight: 
no matter which way she ran, she was trapped inside a torrential downpour, 
on either side of which the sun shone brightly. There was no escape for 
the woman, and she died. 

Kang heard the thunder and laughed. He knew that a human must 
have discovered Tagai's presence on Mua, for zugubal always raised storms 
if they were surprised in their secret existence. Tagai told him the whole 
story when he presently returned to the canoe, bringing kupa fruit for 
Kang in the bag which he wore over his left shoulder. 

Tagai and Kang departed for Gumu, fingernails flashing in the sunlight 
as they poled their canoe with their elbows. Before long Kang told Tagai 
to leave the poling to him. The wind dropped shortly afterwards, and 
Kang said: "See! I have caused the wind to stop blowing." Tagai replied: 
"There is still a slight breeze. There are ripples on the water." Tagai poled 
then, and immediately there was dead, flat calm. "There is no wind now," 
said Tagai. "The air is so still that we can hear the twitter of birds in 
Daudai. I can see fish swimming in the coral below. I stopped the wind 

When they reached Gumu and gave the parts missing from unuwa to 
Kuiam, he told them that he needed no more help from them and they 
might go where they chose. A strong wind sprang up from the south, a 
wind to send Tagai and Kang on their way. 16 It took them first to Dauan 
and then to Saibai. 



One evening, Kuiam lay on the beach at the mouth of the little creek, 
Waidun Sarka, cutting the turtle which Tagai and Kang had brought him. 
In shaping the two emblems, Giribu and Kutibu, which he intended to 
wear when fighting, he used the crescent moon for model. To each he 
added movable pieces — a full set of turtle-shell replicas of the legs, eyes, 
nose, and mouth of the sand crab (butu kupas). 

The bigger of the two emblems, Kutibu, Kuiam made to wear on his 
chest; Giribu, the smaller, was for wearing on his back. Each was a sacred 
object, Kuiam's personal augad, which he endowed with magical power 
from himself (nuid nungi puiu parapar wanadin nungu kosar augadia). They 
became living things, and he fed them with the thick, rich blood of the 
small rock cod, mata kurup. 

The day after he fashioned Giribu and Kutibu, Kuiam told his uncle, 
Tomagan, to cut young, green coconut leaves and make a skirt for him 
to wear. When it was finished, Kuiam dressed himself in it, and put on 
armlets and leglets. On his chest and back he wore his two augad. "What 
do I resemble?" Kuiam asked his uncle. "You look like a big rock with 
waves breaking against it," Tomagan told his nephew. 

Kuiam went to the beach and, seeing people coming to Gumu from 
Panai, ran towards them. They fled. Some believed him to be a ghost; 
but all were afraid, even those who recognized him. Kuiam then ran to 
Gumu, from time to time dashing into the sea and drinking salt water. 
Seeing this, Tomagan said: "Whatever has Kuiam done?" For Kuiam's 
behaviour was that of one in a frenzy from killing. 

Kuiam ran inside the house at Gumu, where his mother sat weaving a 
mat. He stood on a strip of pandanus leaf that she was putting into her 
work. Kuinam, now blind and old, swore at the culprit. "Mother," said 
Kuiam, "it is I, your son, whom you have cursed." "Oh Kuiam, my good 
son," burst from Kuinam. Kuiam left the house without speaking. 

The following day he went to Bidai Kup, a small, fertile spot at Gumu, 
and dressed himself as he had on the previous day. Then, after running 
round and round Bidai Kup until he was fighting mad, he went to his 
mother who, as usual, sat weaving. "Mother," he said, "look at me." 
Kuinam raised her head in his direction. Kuiam drove his spear (takul, a 
pronged spear) into both her eyes, killing her. 

Tomagan, who had witnessed the scene, now shook with fear. "Kuiam 
has killed his mother. I am nobody to him now," he thought. Certain that 
he, too, was about to die by his nephew's hand, Tomagan ran away and hid 
in some bushes. 

Kuiam went looking for his uncle, calling him to come. Tomagan 
answered — in a voice that quavered weakly. Kuiam told him to prepare 
their canoe for a journey, and to place in it his, Kuiam's, fighting gear and 


the two augad, Giribu and Kutibu. Before stepping into the canoe, Kuiam 
held up his woomera which, of its own accord, turned in his hand until it 
pointed due north. Kuiam and Tomagan sailed in that direction. 

Late in the afternoon, they anchored on the reef at Beka, some distance 
north of Mabuiag. Kuiam immediately sent Tomagan to catch rock cod 
for feeding the augad. He himself remained in the canoe, decking his body 
in fighting attire and holding aloft his woomera. It first turned itself to the 
north towards Daudai, but afterwards moved slightly to give the exact 
indication of where Kuiam was to fight — Boigu — and then it fell from 
Kuiam's hand into the canoe. Tomagan, who had been watching Kuiam, 
was sure that Kuiam was going to kill him. 

When Tomagan came back with the rock cod, he and Kuiam fed the 
augad, cutting the fish and holding it close to the nose of each. As the blood 
dripped on to Giribu and Kutibu, the augad sniffed audibly and the blood 

Next day, uncle and nephew sailed to Boigu, making their landing at 
Kadalau Bupur. Kuiam went ashore at once to look for people to kill. 
Tomagan stayed with the canoe. 

Kuiam came to a house which had two doors. After setting fire to one 
of them, he went and stood outside the other — through which the people 
inside were forced to emerge when the flames caught the other end of the 
building. Kuiam killed them as they came out. The only person at Boigu 
who escaped him was a woman who managed to run away. 

Kuiam went to the canoe to fetch two bamboo beheading knives, one 
for himself and one for Tomagan, whom he told to come with him and 
help remove the heads of the Boigu dead. He soon found, however, that 
Tomagan was awkward and squeamish in the performance of this task. 
"Uncle," said Kuiam, "that is not the way to remove heads. This is the 
way to do it," and he showed Tomagan the correct action, to the rhyth- 
mical accompaniment of the spoken words, "Wati kuik (Bad head). 
Boma kuik (Useless head)." All the heads were afterwards strung together 
with vine and taken to the canoe, together with some dugong flesh which 
the Boigu people had had at their house. 

It was Kuiam's intention to sail to Daudai from Boigu, but he changed 
his mind and put in at Saibai. There he found no one until he overturned a 
baler shell (merewal). Inside it was a man. Kuiam asked him where the rest 
of the people lived at Saibai, and was told that there was no one but 
himself on the island. 

From Saibai Kuiam sailed to Dauan, and at this island he stayed with the 
canoe while Tomagan went ashore to see if it was inhabited. Tomagan 
17. Food prepared from the seedling pod found some people and told them that they must prepare a friendly wel- 
of a variety of mangrove. come for Kuiam — they must spread a mat for him and bring him biu 11 

and green coconuts for food and drink. 


The effect of this hospitality upon Kuiam was to make him feel friendly 
towards the people of Dauan. Having eaten and drunk, he said: "Dauan is 
my island. The coconut palms at this island will always bear big fruit. 
The bin will always be fat." 

He went for a walk along the beach. Presently he threw his spear, and it 
landed a short distance back from the shore; when he pulled it out of the 
ground, water gushed up. "This is my water," Kuiam said. "It will never 
go dry." 

From there Kuiam walked to the top of Togani Pad (a hill). For a time 
he stood gazing south across the sea towards Mabuiag, tears streaming 
from his eyes as he thought of Kuinam whom he had killed. "Mother," 
he said, "you do not see this sun go down." Then he turned his face north 
and saw smoke going up in Daudai. 


Kuiam walked inland from the coast of Daudai through long grass until 
he came to the place called Zibar. There he saw a long house with a single 
door at which a grey-haired man sat. He set fire to the rear of the building, 
and then he ran to the front of it and killed the old man. When the building 
caught alight, the people inside it woke up and rushed to the door to 
escape. Kuiam speared all of them, saying as he killed each: "Mawa keda." 
"Mawa keda, mawa keda, mawa keda . . .," chanted Kuiam, until all were 
dead. Lest one or two should have escaped and be planning to take him 
unawares, he dropped to the ground and lay still for a while. But there was 
no sound; nothing stirred; so he got to his feet and looked at the bodies 
that lay around him. "Aiau dumaniu itamar kibuia get mataik (I am like 
poison vines and bushes killing all whom I touch)," he said. "Ngai amana 
Kuinamna kazi ibaidau tamanu dani makamaka pudaumaka (I, Kuinam's son, 
my legs adorned with fringing made from branches of the fig-tree, take 
very big steps). Ngai surka, ngai keu (I, the jungle fowl, I call)." 

Kuiam walked to Toga, not far away, and killed every person at that 
place, in the same manner as he had at Zibar, afterwards cutting off their 
heads . . . "Wati kuik. Boma kuik. Wati kuik. Boma kuik." He took cane 
from a vine which grew nearby and strung the heads, and then he went 
back to Zibar to remove the heads from those whom he had killed earlier 
. . . "Wati kuik. Boma kuik. Wati kuik. Boma kuik." These heads, too, he 
strung, before setting out on the return walk to the canoe. 

All this time Tomagan had waited in the canoe. He was doubly afraid : 
Kuiam had been gone so long that Tomagan feared his nephew was dead 
and, thought Tomagan: "Someone may see that I am alone and kill me." 
But at last he saw Kuiam approaching. It was black night, and Kuiam was 
lit up by swarms of fireflies, his body spattered with blood from the string 
of heads which trailed from his left shoulder to the ground behind him. 


Kuiam in Daudai (New Guinea) Kuiam called to his uncle to run the canoe in and, after he had loaded 

Artist Ephraim Bam ^ h ea ds, summoned a north-west wind to take them home. 

By the time they passed Dauan, the heads smelled foully; in addition, 
the canoe was leaking badly. "Mina wati gangul gul a kuparal gul ngalbai 
pungaik (What an evil-smelling, maggot-ridden canoe we sail)," said 
Tomagan as he baled out the water. "What is that you say?" asked Kuiam. 
Tomagan replied: "Bilan saia bagia pudema labina Kap kulai sika susul 
pagaz wage] mudan araik (You are like the rock, labina Kap, behind which I 
[Tomagan] shelter like a little fish)" — meaning by this, that Kuiam's 
strength and prowess saw them through every danger that they en- 
countered on their journey. They were, in fact, quite close to labina Kap 
at the time, and soon afterwards sailed safely by it. To Tomagan it seemed 
that they escaped from labina Kap as a fish escapes, when the hook pulls 

18. Actually, "Ngau iarkapul P a,pa ladm out through the side of its jaw. "Uncle," said Kuiam, "I thrill to your 

(My curly hair stands on end)". words." 


Kuiam put in at the island of Gebar because he was thirsty and, when the 
people of that island gave him water to drink, said: "Gebar is my island. 
There will always be plenty of water at Gebar, and its coconuts will 
always grow big." He asked for a new canoe after he had drunk, saying 
that his own leaked badly. 

By then, the people of Gebar were speaking out loud about the dreadful 
smell which came from Kuiam's canoe. Tomagan counselled them to stop, 
warning them that Kuiam was quick-tempered and might take offence at 
their words. 

After Tomagan had loaded the new canoe 19 with the heads from Boigu 
and Zibar and Toga, the last stage of the journey began. Kuiam went 
ashore at Niman 20 and, climbing the rock-face close to the beach, held 
aloft his woomera. It pointed to Pulu, a small, rocky island off the west 
coast of Mabuiag. Soon afterwards they reached Gumu. 

Tomagan made an earth-oven and placed the heads in it, covering them 
with sand. Presently he removed them and cleaned them of all flesh. He 
placed the skulls in a heap. 


Daily, Kuiam ran from Gumu to the top of the big hill close by, keeping 
a constant lookout for approaching canoes. None came. 

One day, he held up his woomera as he stood watching and, when it 
pointed to Pulu, knew that he must fight there. 

That night, he and Tomagan crossed to Pulu by canoe and landed at 
the sandy beach since called Mumugubut. Kuiam went ashore alone and, 
finding a man asleep beside an earth-oven, killed him with his spear. 
The man's backbone broke with the sound of wood snapped in two, 
waking the rest of the people at Pulu. Kuiam thrust his spear this way and 
that way — "Mawa keda, mawa keda, mawa keda" — until all were dead. 

Back at Gumu, Tomagan cleaned the heads and added them to Kuiam's 
heap of skulls. 

Kuiam saw three canoes approaching from Mua when he climbed to his 
look-out the following day, so he ran down the hill to the beach at Gumu 
and signalled them ashore with his woomera. When the men landed, he 
killed them. Tomagan placed the cleaned skulls on the mounting heap. 

The people at Mua waited in vain for their canoes to return, their fear 
increasing as the day wore on that Kuiam had killed their kinsmen. Under 
cover of darkness, another three canoes sailed across to Mabuiag, these 
men going round to the western side of the island and hiding in the man- 
groves at the mouth of I Kasa until daybreak. 

In the morning, Tomagan walked across the island to Sipalai, 21 to which 
place the people of Bau had gone to live after Kuiam killed his mother, 

19. The old canoe later turned to stone. 

20. On the south-eastern tip of Mabuiag, 
at the part of the island which is called 
Panai. Kuiam's footprint is in a rock 
at Niman. 

21. Not far from I Kasa. 


Gumu, where Kuiam lived. The green 
patch in the centre is where Kuiam rested 
after he changed into a swallow. This 
patch is called Bidai Kup 

believing that Kuiam might kill his mother's people, too, if they remained 
within sight of Gumu. Seeing Tomagan, the people from Bau mistook 
him at first for Kuiam. Tomagan told them the reason for his visit: he 
had come there to look for rock cod for feeding to Kuiam's augad, being 
afraid to go to Sipingur as he usually did for this purpose, in case men 
from Mua should be hiding there, waiting for the opportunity to avenge 
their dead. 

While Tomagan was turning over stones on the reef outside the man- 
groves at Sipalai, the men of Mua left their cover at the mouth of I Kasa, 
took him by surprise, and killed him. They cut off his head and put it at 
the top of a poling stick which they stood upright in the bow of one of 
their canoes. Kuiam saw it as they approached Gumu, blowing bu shells 
and beating the sides of their canoes with their hands, and he was im- 
mediately filled with grief and foreboding. "I, too, shall die today," he 

Very soon, the fighting began. Kuiam killed a number of Mualgal 
(men of Mua), but they were too many for him. He changed into a 
swallow (katakuik) and flew to Bidai Kup to gain a temporary respite, but 


his enemies quickly found him and hunted him into the open. Kuiam 
returned to his human form and fought on. The peg at the end of his 
woomera broke. Forced to retreat, he ran backwards up the side of the 
hill which he had climbed daily in the past when going to his look-out. 

When he reached the waterhole, Kuiku Iaza, halfway up the hillside, 
the augad, Giribu, detached itself from his back and fell into the water, 
lodging itself in the roots of the iwir tree which grew beside the pool. 

Still retreating, still warding off his enemy pursuers, always with his 
face towards them, Kuiam was at last struck down by the Mualgal on top 
of the hill which bears his name — Kuiaman Pad. Some of these men 
thought to remove his head with their bamboo knives, but their leaders 
prevented them. "Kuiam's head was a good head, a head which teemed 
with ideas, a clever head (kapu kuik, wakain tamamal kuik, kutinau kuik),'" 
they said, "unlike ours, which are bad, useless, stupid heads (wati kuikul, 
boma kuikul, kutingi kuikul).'" One man had already grazed Kuiam's throat 
with his knife before the Mua leaders began to speak, and blood from the 
dying Kuiam splashed the leaves of the small, stunted ti-trees which grew 
at that spot. 

The Mualgal covered Kuiam's body with stones and went down the 
hillside called Iaza to Gumu where they slept that night. 

In the morning, some of the women walked from Sepalai to Gumu 
for news of Kuiam and the Mualgal. One of them went to Kuiku Iaza to 
fetch water — to be smitten silly by the sight of Kuiam's augad, Giribu. She 
tore back down the hillside to Gumu, where the Mualgal were sitting, as 
if in a kod 22 She could not speak, but from her throat came a series of 
grunts, "Ee-ee-ee-ee", and she pointed with her hand towards Kuiku 

The Mualgal followed the woman to Kuiku Iaza, where she showed 
them the augad. They saw its eyes move — they thought them like those of 
the sand crab (butu kupas) — and they plunged their hands into the water to 
grasp Kuiam's sacred emblem. The augad, however, retreated deep down 
in the water and disappeared inside the roots of the iwir tree. 

One man ran to Gumu to fetch a coconut-leaf mat (potawaku). This was 
spread beside the pool and attracted the augad from its hiding-place; but 
the augad disappeared when the mat was pulled closer to the edge of the 

Another man ran for a mat made of soft pandanus leaves (minalai), in the 
hope that Giribu would show a preference for that kind of mat. But the 
minalai proved to be as unattractive to Giribu as the potawaku. 

The Mualgal then discussed the possibility that Kuiam had stored his 2 2 Ie as if for serious discussion or for 
augad in a wrapping of ti-tree bark when he was not wearing them. So a ceremony. 


Maurie Eseli, one of the story-tellers. She 
is standing on Kuiam's hill, indicating 
leaves "stained with Kuiam's blood". 
Kuiam's home, Gumu, is beside the sea 
in the middle distance. 

they tried to lure the augad with the bark of three different kinds of ti- 
tree, zoi ub, poitai ub, and musil ub. The smooth bark of zoi ub brought 
Giribu into sight again; the dusty bark of poitai ub brought it close to the 
surface, so that its eyes protruded above the top of the water, and even 
when they moved this strip of bark very close to the edge of the pool, 
the augad only retracted its eyes. Finally, they tried the bark of musil ub : 
the effect on Giribu was immediate, and it leapt from the pool on to the 
strip of bark. The Mualgal quickly folded the bark over the augad and 
carried it down to Gumu. 


When the Mualgal sailed back to Mua the following day, they took 
Giribu with them. They hid it in a hole beneath a big stone to keep it safe 
for their people. After the missionaries came to Torres Strait, this hiding 
place was given the name, Satanan Kupai (Satan's navel). 

No one knows what happened to Kutibu. Kuiam was wearing it when 
he fell forwards, struck down by Mua clubs. 


[Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, 10 October 1967] 

The girls and boys of Wagedagam 1 on the island of Mabuiag used to play 
a game called mudaidau sagul. In the morning the boys went off to spear 
fish on the reef, and the girls went to the mangroves to look for crabs. 
In the afternoon all met at a pleasant spot where an exchange of gifts was 
made, each boy giving the fattest fish he had speared that day to the girl 
whom he favoured, and this girl giving him in return the fattest crab she 
had found. It was the rule that only fish and crabs which had yellow eggs 
inside them could be given. 

One day a girl cooked all the crabs that she had found that morning and 
brought them to her mother for safe keeping while she played with the 
other girls until it was time for the exchange of gifts. When she ran home 
for her best crab, she discovered that her mother had eaten every one of 
her crabs — she had nothing to give. Her partner waited for her in vain: 
the girl was at home, crying her heart out. 

She was still crying at sunset. Her mother could not stop her, nor 
could her mother's sisters, even when they pretended that dogai I was 
coming to take her away. "Dogai I is very near. Dogai I will get you," they 
threatened, but the girl kept on crying regardless of anything that they said 
or did. 

Now at the mention of her name, dogai I experienced a strange bodily 
sensation (gamu zilmai). Knowing all that had happened at Wagedagam in 
the afternoon she said: "That little girl is still crying and someone has 
threatened her with me. Someone is using my name to frighten her." 
Dogai I decided to steal the girl. 

The girl was still crying at midnight when I set out to run over the hill 
and across Bari to Wagedagam. She sent magic ahead of her, which caused 
everyone to fall asleep — everyone but the mother and daughter. 

Dogai I is an important mythical figure 
at Mabuiag. The name I (pronounced ee 
as in "feet") had its origin in an incident 
which occurs towards the end of the 
story. Two physical features at Mabuiag, 
a well and a creek, bear the name, I. 

Dogai I eventually went up to the sky 
and became a constellation (identified by 
Haddon, in Reports, V, 16, as "the star 
Vega with the adjoining group of small 
stars which represent one arm held out"). 
This constellation is associated in West 
Torres Strait with the onset of the season 
of the south-east wind (waur), and for 
this reason Dogai I is often referred to as 
Waurlaig (south-east-wind-person). 

1. People whose totem (augad) was 
kadal (crocodile), i.e. kadal augadalgal, 
lived at Wagedagam, on the island 
of Mabuiag. Wagedagam means "the 
other side" — in this instance, the 
north-western side of the island. 


2. The well, I, is said to have come into 
existence at this spot as the result of 
dogai I's screwing herself into the 
rock. The creek which runs down to 
the sea from this well in the wet 
season is called I Kasa. 

The mother was still trying to quieten the girl. "Don't cry," she said. 
"It's very late. Dogai I will hear you and take you away." But it was no 
use, the girl went on crying, and presently the mother, too, slept. Dogai 
I crept into the house, snatched the girl and made off with her, jabbering 
as she ran: "Dadiapara, kadiapara, dadiapara, kadiaparaT 

The little girl called to her mother many times, more and more loudly 
as she was taken further and further away from her home. The women 
at Wagedagam heard her cries and ran to try and save her, but dogai I had 
too great a start for them to be able to catch her. 

When dogai I passed the putil trees on the north-western side of Wage- 
dagam, she gouged an eye from the girl with a finger. The girl screamed. 
Dogai I, still running, soon afterwards removed the other eye from the 
girl, who again screamed. 

When I reached her home amidst the rocks on the side of the hill, she 
tried to make the girl stop crying and, because she was unsuccessful, be- 
came very angry. Grabbing her by the legs, dogai I swung her up and then 
down, cracking her head against a rock. Then she rubbed the girl back- 
wards and forwards, backwards and forwards, against a boulder until 
there was no skin left on her. After that she placed the body on her lap 
and began to rock it — as if to put it to sleep. 

All this happened during the absence of the men from Wagedagam on 
a hunting expedition for dugong and turtle. They returned the morning 
after dogai I's theft of the girl, and all the women except the girl's mother 
went down to the landing to help unload the canoes. Afraid to face her 
husband for fear of what he would do to her when he heard about the loss 
of his daughter, the poor woman asked her youngest sister to meet him 
and tell him the story and herself went some distance away to Awana Mai 
where she sat down alone, sick at heart. 

So the father received the news from his wife's sister and, as soon as he 
had taken his share of the meat and fish obtained during the hunt to his 
home, went to the head man (kuiku garka) and told him all that had 

The head man ordered the men of Wagedagam to search for dogai I 
until they found her. Arming themselves with harpoon-spears (wap), 
harpoons (kuiur), and ropes (amu), the men were soon tracking the dogai 
across Bari, up the hill and down the other side. When they caught sight 
of I, she was still sitting down; she held the girl's body in her arms and was 
rocking it from side to side as if to soothe it to sleep. 

The men crept towards I, the girl's father in the lead. When he was close 
to the dogai, he harpooned her in the shoulder. I threw the child away and 
tried to escape from the men by screwing herself into a solid wall of rock. 2 
The men threw a rope around her and tried to haul her out, but dogai I 


The well called I, which is said to have 
come into existence as the result of dogai 
I's screwing herself into rock 

continued to turn her way into the rock — all they managed was to tear off 
her right arm at the shoulder. "Now I have only one arm to use when I 
hunt for crabs," said dogai I. 

After the dogai had disappeared from their sight, the men took her arm 
back to Wagedagam and told the boys to throw it to the sharks in the sea. 
But the boys said: "We won't throw I's arm into the sea straight away. 
Let's hang it up on a tree and use it for spear play (tukutuk sagul). We'll 
throw it to the sharks when we've finished our game." And they threw 
spears at I's arm until sunset. Then, instead of throwing the arm into the 
sea as they had promised, they left it hanging on the tree. 

After dark, fireflies (zagul) swarmed around the arm, lighting it up, so 
when dogai I came in search of it late that night, she saw it from a long way 
off at Bari. She ran towards it, scratching herself at the part where her arm 
had been torn off and calling : 

Zug nguzu zug a ngapa mariu a kawa utu a. 
(Arm, arm, come to me. Join here.) 

When she came close to the tree, the arm and her shoulder reached out for 
each other by sending out tendons. The arm was finally drawn to her 
shoulder so fast and with such force that the two made a loud noise at the 
moment of impact. "I!" squeaked the dogai. "Now I have two hands to use 
when I look for crabs." Then she ran back to her home. 

Everyone at Wagedagam heard the sound of the arm rejoining itself to 
its shoulder. "That would not have happened if you had thrown the 
arm to the sharks as we told you," the men said to the boys. 


[Told by Tabitiai Mooka at Mabuiag, 29 September 1967] 

Once upon a time there were living at Dabangai a widow and her only 
son, Tabepa, a handsome young man for whom all the young girls were 

That her son found favour with these girls did not please his mother at 
all, for she intended him to marry Ug, a spirit girl of Kibu, the land beyond 
the horizon to which the ghosts of dead people go. Again and again she 
told him: "You are to marry Ug of Kibu." But Tabepa continued to 
spend far too much time in the company of the girls of Dabangai for his 


mother's liking, and in the end she decided to go and make a home for 
herself and her son at Wagedagam, the opposite side of the island. 

They settled at Kulapis, outside the main village of Wagedagam, and 
before long all the young girls of Wagedagam were throwing themselves 
at Tabepa. His mother became very angry. "You are to marry Ug of 
Kibu," she reminded him often. 

His mother's frequent mention of Ug worried Tabepa. What kind of 
girl was she? Was she beautiful? As for Ug, whenever Tabepa's mother 
mentioned her, she experienced a strange bodily sensation (gamu zilmai). 
"Someone is using my name at Gigu (an old name for Mabuiag)," Ug said 
at those times. She made up her mind to escape from Kibu and visit Wage- 
dagam in order to satisfy her curiosity about the young man for whom 
she was intended as a bride. 

Ug stole away from Kibu one night after the spirits had gone to sleep. 
She took some strings of dugong meat for a present for Tabepa's mother. 
Outside Tabepa's house she called: "Tabepa! Are you asleep?" Tabepa 
woke and said: "Who is it?" "It is I, Ug, the girl whom your mother wants 
you to marry." Tabepa went to the girl, and they talked until just before 
daybreak, when Ug said that she must hurry back to Kibu. 

After leaving Kulapis, Ug ran to the rocks on the mudbanks, Gatani. 
There she went down to Apangab, the road under the sea, and ran along 
it until she came to sandbanks (Guguzina Kabauzinga, ghosts' dance place) 
the other side of the small island, Iadi. At Guguzina Kabauzinga, Ug stood 
for a while and looked back at her sweetheart's home. "Urpi Gigu poiad ras 
(Gigu, so rich that the sea around you is filmed with the oil of turtle and 
dugong. Dusty, windswept Gigu)," she said. Then she re-entered Apangab 
and sped to Kibu, arriving just in time to light up the markai (spirit) 
dancers. Had she been late, she would have been missed, for she was a 
beautiful girl; as such, it was her duty to hold a torch of burning palm- 
leaves while a dance was in progress. 

Tabepa felt very tired the morning after Ug's visit to him. It was late 
when he got up. His mother thought that he looked sick. The girls of 
Wagedagam were hanging about at Kulapis, so he told them to go to 
a big fig-tree (dani) on top of Kalalagau Pad and wait there for him. 
"I'll tell my mother that I'm going to the reef to spear fish. With that 
excuse, I'll be able to escape from her and join you later," he said. 

After they had gone, Tabepa picked up his spear and walked down to 
the beach. Then he walked along past the mangroves until he reached the 
point, Tipait, and climbed up to the girls. The kutai and bua (yams) that 
they had cooked while they were waiting for him to come were ready 
to eat. 

Tabepa and the girls spent the afternoon together on Kalalagau Pad. 


He told them about Ug's visit to Kulapis, explaining that Ug was the 
girl whom his mother wanted him to marry. 

Tabepa's mother saw him walking back with the girls and scolded both 
him and them. Tabepa said nothing. 

Ug visited him again that night. "Not tonight, not tomorrow night, 
but the night after that I shall take you to Kibu," she told him. Tabepa said 
that he would go with her. She stayed with him until dawn and then 
hurried back to the spirit land. 

Tabepa spent the afternoon on Kalalagau Pad with the girls and arranged 
to meet them again for the last time the following afternoon, when he 
would say goodbye to them before going to Kibu with Ug. When Ug 
visited him that night she reminded him that the next time she came they 
would set out for Kibu together. 

Tabepa felt infinitely sad after he said goodbye to the girls the following 
afternoon. When he lay down to sleep in his house, sleep would not come. 
His body began to chill, and shortly afterwards he heard Ug calling his 
name. He had said nothing to his mother about Ug's previous visits, and 
now he left her for ever without a word of farewell. 

At Gatani, Tabepa asked Ug how he was to enter Apangab. "Catch 
hold of my grass skirt," Ug told him. They came up at Guguzina Kabau- 
zinga and looked back at Wagedagam. "Urpi Gigu poiad ras," said Ug in 
praise of her sweetheart's home. Then they re-entered Apangab and 
travelled the long road to the home of the spirits. 

Ug hid him in her house and, when she had to go and light up the 
markai dancing that night, made him promise to stay indoors until she 

The markai dancers advanced in two lines, but hardly had they begun to 
dance when feathers fell from their head-dresses. "We are being watched 
by a human," they said. Ug dropped her palm-leaf torch. "Come close," 
she said, "for I want all of you to hear what I have to confess." "Is it about 
the human at Kibu? Do you need help?" asked the markai. "My fathers," 
said Ug, "I brought the human here to be my husband." "Let us see him," 
said the markai. 

The markai approved of the handsome young man as husband for Ug, 
and the next morning they escorted him round their village. In the party 
was a markai named Baz. 

Baz had long been in love with Ug, but Ug had never felt love for Baz. 
Fiendishly jealous of Tabepa because he had been accepted by Ug, Baz 
had concealed a small club (malpalau nai) under his arm before leaving his 
house that morning. He was going to kill Tabepa. 

The chance to do so occurred when Tabepa complained of thirst during 
the walk round the village and was taken to the well. While he was 


drinking, the markai stood around him in a circle. Baz struck Tabepa a 
death-dealing blow between the eyes with his club as Tabepa was straight- 
ening after quenching his thirst. 

The other markai growled at Baz: "You should not have killed the 
human. We promised Ug that no harm would befall her husband. There 
has never been a human at Kibu before." 

Ug heard almost at once that Tabepa was dead and ran to the well. 
"I hate you," she stormed at Baz. "I never loved you. Tabepa did you no 
wrong." Then she wept bitter tears. 


[Told by Repu Dugui at Mabuiag, 
22 September 1967] 

Two brothers, Konowe and Bainu, lived in a village on the small island, 
Iadi. Konowe had a son named Maiwasa, and Bainu had a son named Gizu. 
Both Konowe and Bainu were expert hunters. 

Every morning, Konowe used to sit on top of a rock and keep a good 
look-out for turtle and dugong. If he saw one of these creatures, he went 
straight back to the village and organized a hunting party. 

When Maiwasa grew to manhood he became an expert hunter like his 
father, Konowe, and his father's brother, Bainu. Like them, he was 
zogoau garka — a man who had magic which enabled him to see dugong 
and turtle when ordinary men saw none. He never missed when he threw 
his harpoon-spear (wap), and whenever he went fishing he returned with 
a long string of fish. 

Now there was a big snake (unar) in a cave on Iadi. She used to watch 
Maiwasa all the time he was out on the reef, and, because she found him 
very attractive to her, she decided that she wanted him for a husband. 

One day she went to the reef while Maiwasa was fishing. Maiwasa, 
who had had no luck up to that time, saw her head in the water and, mis- 
taking it for a baby turtle, speared her. As he lifted her up with the prongs 
of his spear, scales fell from her body and stuck to fish — till then, fish had 
no scales. 

"I want you to be my husband," the snake told Maiwasa. But Maiwasa 
had no desire for a wife who was a snake, and he told her so and killed her. 1 
Then he went home to his father at Iadi and recounted all that had 

The following day Maiwasa went to Dauan to hunt dugong . . . 

Two versions of this story are told in 
Torres Strait, one at Mabuiag, the other 
at Dauan, where it goes by the title, 
"Kusa Kap". The principal difference 
between the two versions is the way the 
story begins. 

At Mabuiag, a Mabuiag origin is 
ascribed to the hero, Maiwasa. At Dauan, 
the details relating to Mabuiag are 
omitted. The rest of the story, in which 
the action relates to Dauan and a small 
island off the coast of Papua, is told in 
greater detail at Dauan than at Mabuiag. 

This tale is the beginning of the story 
told at Mabuiag. It should be read in 
conjunction with "Kusa Kap", in the 
section, "Stories from Dauan". 

1. Another informant at Mabuiag said 
that when Maiwasa refused to take 
the snake for wife, the snake changed 
into a dogai — but not before she had 
thrown Maiwasa to Dauan. As a 
dogai, she followed him to Dauan, 
and as a dogai, she watched him at 
that island as she had at Iadi. It was 
her firm intention to grab him at the 
first opportunity and make him her 



1. Pulu, a small rocky island inside 
Mabuiag's home reef. 

Landtman m The Folk-Tales of the Kiwai 
Papuans (Helsingfors, 1917), pp. 422-24, 
gives a tale, "The Man with the Enorm- 
ous Penis", which he collected at Mawa- 
ta, on the Papuan mainland. 

TAWAPAGAI [Told by Dakanatai Kiris at Mabuiag, 

10 October 1967] 

There used to be a village in the district of Wagedagam called Urabal 
Gagait, and at Bum, a place in that village, there lived a mother and 

One day the mother told her daughter that they would go and fish on 
the home reef north of Pulu. 1 There the daughter found something that 
looked like a rope of living flesh. It was very long. She called her mother 
to come and look at it. "It may be good to eat," the woman said when 
she saw it. So they cut a piece from it and took it home and cooked it. 

"We'll throw it to the ants and see what happens to them after they 
eat it," said the mother. "If it doesn't kill them, we'll know that we've 
found a new food for ourselves." The ants ate it and did not die. The 
mother said: "We'll go to the same place tomorrow and get some more." 
This they did, and they cooked it and ate it themselves this time. 

Day after day, mother and daughter obtained their food from the 
strange thing that the daughter had found. 

"You look plump and well-fed," the children of Urabal Gagait said to 
them when they visited Bum one day. "What have you been eating?" 

Now the mother and daughter had found that the new food yielded a 
lot of fat when it was cooked, and they had been skimming this off and 
storing it in baler shells. They sent the children home with a shellful of it 
and told them to tell their parents to go to the reef and get some of the 
rich food for themselves. 

So, for a time, all the people of Urabal Gagait cut daily portions from the 
edible rope of flesh, in so doing, working their way over the reef from the 
spot north of Pulu, where it had been discovered by the girl from Buru, 
towards the mangrove islet, Mipa. The day came when, after they finished 
cutting off their food, they found themselves at the south-eastern tip of 
Mipa, opposite Tawapagai on Mabuiag where a man was swimming just 
outside the mangroves. 

Actually, this man was a markai (ghost) who, for a long while, had daily 
felt himself growing weaker. When he saw the people on the other side of 
the narrow channel that separates Tawapagai and Mipa, he said to them: 
"Why have you been chopping off my penis?" 

No sooner had he spoken than he died and turned to stone. He became 
the big boulder which stands in the sea outside the fringing mangroves at 


AMIPURU [Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, 6 October 1967] 

When Amipuru of Wagedagam was fishing with his spear between Paidai 
and Tipait one day, he saw a pelican swimming in the sea between the two 
small islands, Widul and Pururai. He decided to catch it and give to his 
children for a pet. 

So he broke off some branches of mangrove and, with them for camou- 
flage, waded and swam towards the pelican. Just as he reached it, however, 
it took fright and rose up from the water. Amipuru managed to grab one 
of its legs with one hand and held on tight. 

The pelican flew into the air and circled Wagedagam. Then it flew 
across Mabuiag to Kuiam's hill and Bau and out over the passage between 
Mabuiag and Kuiku Pad (Jervis Reef). 

Amipuru held on for dear life. Sometimes he changed hands. He was 
waiting for the pelican to fly over soft mud before he let go. 

Eventually the pelican returned to Wagedagam and flew out over the 
mud offshore from that place. Amipuru loosened his grip and fell like a 
stone, to sink to his neck in mud. 

The people of Wagedagam saw him fall, and they tried to dig him out. 1 
It was useless. Faster than they dug away the mud from around him, the 
sea rushed in with the rising tide. Before long the poor man was in im- 
minent danger of drowning, because the water was up to his mouth. 

"We can't do anything for Amipuru," the people said, so the head man 
cut off his head with a bamboo knife. 

Amipuru's wife and children wept. 

Artist Ephraim Bani 

1. The removal of the mud by the 
people in their efforts to save Ami- 
puru is said to have created the 
lagoon, Wazegna Dan. 


[Told by Repu Dugui at Mabuiag, 
25 September 1967] 

Once upon a time there lived on the island of Bupu a man named Paiwain, 
his wife, Utaga, and a dogai named Saurkeke. 

Every morning when Saurkeke woke up, she used to leave her home, a 
buda tree, and go down to the sea and wash her grass skirt. Then she 
climbed up the hill to a flat stone and danced on it, singing as she danced : 

Saurkeke gima zazilnga. 

(Saurkeke is wearing her short grass skirt.) 

After that she walked down to the reef and collected limpets from the 

One morning when Paiwain was fishing on the south-eastern side of 
Bupu, he saw Saurkeke coming towards him. He dropped his line and 
chased her back to her home. 

This went on for many days, Saurkeke trying to come close to Paiwain, 
and Paiwain chasing her away. At last Saurkeke called to him one morn- 
ing: "You will not let me be your friend, so I shall go to an island where 
the men are like brothers to me." 

Actually, Paiwain had nothing against Saurkeke so long as she kept her 
distance. In fact, he was glad to have her at Bupu, for she was not a bad 
dogai as dogai went, so he now begged her not to leave. Saurkeke, however, 
would not be persuaded, and she pushed a log into the sea, stretched out 
along it, wrapped her arms round it, and drifted away from Bupu with 
the tide. As she floated along on top of the water, she sang: 

Napai ngapai nga wa nga baltaika? 
Doke doke toribu toribu. 
(Who is this floating along? 
Doke doke toribu toribu.) 1 

Near the island called Surbur, waves almost tore Saurkeke from her log : 
the tide was on the turn, and there is a swirling current at that spot at such 
times. She groped with her feet for the bed of the sea, but could not reach 
it because it was too far away. (A small reef formed there afterwards.) 
The tide took her close to Dabangai Ngur, a point on Mabuiag, and again 


1. When I asked William Min for a 
translation of this, he just said: 
"Dogai language, which is very hard 
to translate." 


she felt for the bottom of the sea with her feet, once more finding that the 
water was too deep. (Here, also, a small reef formed.) Finally she washed 
up at Padagat, a spot at the eastern edge of the reef which surrounds the 
island of Kuikusagai. 

That day seven men of Aipus 2 — Iamata, Buibuigi, Salgaigi, Unuwakab, 
Unuwatur, Uta, and their nephew, Aipazar — had gone to Kuikusagai in 
their canoe to fish, and while Uta was walking about on the reef with his 
spear he saw a log cast up at Padagat. He went to it and, seeing what he 
took to be roots on its under-side, tried to break them off. They were not 
roots, however, but Saurkeke's fingers — she was still clinging to the log — 
and she shrieked with pain. Uta yelled, terrified: "What's this? A dogai l" 
And he ran away as fast as he could, Saurkeke jabbering at his heels: 
"Dadiapara, kadiapara, dadiapara, dadiapara."* 

Halfway along the reef from Padagat, Uta went inside a hole in a 
boulder not far from the beach. He had to remove stone-fish and stingrays 
from the hole, but after that he was perfectly safe, and Saurkeke could not 
reach him. She stood outside his hiding place for a long time, but the tide 
came in and eventually she was forced to go ashore, where she climbed to 
the top of the ridge in the middle of the island and went into the small 
cave, Gabmanmui. 

While Uta walked about on the reef with his spear, the rest of the party 
fished from the canoe outside the edge of the reef. They saw Uta running 
away from a dogai and, believing Uta needed their help, told Aipazar to 
pull up the anchor. Aipazar said: "Don't be silly. There are no dogai at 
Kuikusagai. Now at Sasi you can see dogai walking about at all times of 
the day, but Kuikusagai is a different kind of place. That's not a dogai 
chasing Uta. What you see are two boys, Waimugi and Samugi, chasing 
garfish." Against their better judgment, the brothers stayed where they 
were and continued to fish until the tide covered the reef. Then they poled 
their canoe in to the beach. During the day they had caught many crayfish 
and a big rock cod. 

After they had placed the rock cod in an earth-oven to bake and cooked 
the crayfish, there was still no sign of Uta, so they called to him: "Uta, 
where are you? We caught a rock cod and some crayfish. Come and eat." 
Uta heard them, but he would not leave his shelter on the reef because he 
was afraid of being grabbed by the dogai; nor would he reply to his 
brothers, except with a whistle. "Come, Uta. Come and eat crayfish 
claws," the brothers called again. Not until it was almost dark did Uta 
leave the hole in the rock and go to his brothers' camp. 

Later in the evening, Iamata walked down to the beach to see if his 
canoe was safe, and found that it had split lengthwise and the outriggers 
were drifting out to sea. Sad at heart, he was strolling along the beach 

2. A neighbouring islet. 

3. "Dogai language". See footnote 1. 
In "The Dogai of Zurat", in the sec- 
tion, "Stories from Badu", this gabble 
was given as "dadipara, kadipara", i.e. 
without the middle syllable "a". 


4. On Mabuiag. 

5. Tukutuk kalakau sagul, target play. 

6. The magic chant used at islands in 
West Torres Strait to ensure accurate 
aim in target play. 

when he saw a hawksbill turtle coming up to lay its eggs. He turned it on 
to its back and walked back to his brothers. 

Soon all but Uta fell asleep. Uta was still eating crayfish claws. Saurkeke, 
who had been watching the brothers and Aipazar from Gabmanmui, now 
crept towards the camp and, the moment Uta began to drowse, put a 
hand inside the earth-oven, hooked a finger through the jaw of the rock 
cod, and dragged it out. And at that instant, Uta, whose head had been 
nodding, jerked awake. 

"The dogai is stealing our fish," he yelled. "She sneaked to the earth- 
oven when my eyes closed for a moment." Aipazar said: "That's a lie. 
You stole the fish yourself." But Uta was able to convince his brothers 
that he was telling the truth, and all of them gathered sticks and grass, 
plucked brands from the fire, and then followed the dogai s tracks to 
Gabmanmui. Outside the cave they lit a fierce fire, and before long 
Saurkeke was yelling with pain. Aipazar said: "There's no dogai in this 
cave — one of you men is making that noise." 

In the morning the men climbed up to Gabmanmui. On the ground 
inside the cave they saw a skull and the head of a rock cod. 

Iamata and his brothers and Aipazar returned to Aipus on the two halves 
of the canoe which had split lengthwise the night before, taking with 
them the rest of the crayfish and the hawksbill turtle. When they arrived 
at Aipus, Aipazar took more than his fair share of the crayfish and scoffed 
at Iamata when he said: "Tomorrow I shall go to Gumu and visit my 
nephews. They have a new canoe which they will give me in exchange for 
the shell of the hawksbill turtle I found at Kuikusagai." "The people of 
Gumu will cut off your head," Aipazar told him. "They will not," said 
the people of Aipus, "because his nephews live there." 

Next day when the reef was dry, Iamata set out for Mabuiag on foot, 
and, as he walked away from Aipus, Aipazar said to the people: "Say 
goodbye to Iamata. You will never see him again." 

When Iamata arrived at Gumu, the youths of that place were throwing 
spears at two logs, 5 so he sat down behind some bushes on the bank of 
Kuburau Kasa and watched them for a while. 

Muta garu muta. 
Sara garu sara. 

Tana ina muigubalgal ia umaika. 
Pagane! Pagane! Pagane! 6 

chanted the boys as they took aim. Presently Iamata's nephews threw their 
spears and missed the target completely, the spears travelling in the 
direction of the bushes behind which Iamata was screened, and when they 


ran to retrieve them they saw their uncle. "Are you a ghost or a human?" 
they asked him. Iamata assured them that he was their uncle in the flesh 
and explained the purpose of his visit. 

His nephews invited him to spend the night with them, and in the 
morning loaded their new canoe with a present of yams. They accom- 
panied their uncle in the canoe as far as Dabangai, and then they left him 
and walked back to Gumu. 

Iamata was seen by his people as he came towards Aipus, and they ran 
to the beach to meet him. Aipazar reached him first and helped himself to 
most of the yams. 


[Told by Saku Mooka at Mabuiag, 27 September 1967] 

One night the men of Dabangai planned a hunting trip to Anui. 1 While 
they were making their preparations the following morning, a young boy 
named Adiad asked his father, Gigi, if he might go, too. Against his better 
judgment, Gigi finally agreed to take him. He and Adiad sailed alone in 
their own canoe. 

The hunters spent several days at Anui, harpooning enough turtle and 
dugong to fill every canoe with fresh meat. Then they set out on the 
return journey to Dabangai. Gigi and Adiad were the last to leave. 

They had still not reached home when all the other canoes had finished 
unloading. Everyone stood around on the beach, watching for Gigi and 
Adiad, but the day wore on, and there was still no sign of their canoe. 
Gigi's wife asked the men who had returned for news of her husband and 
son, but they could tell her no more than that Gigi and Adiad were the 

last to leave Anui. That night she wept, believing both her husband and j A ree f seV eral miles distant from 
son to have perished. Mabuiag. 


When the canoe sank on the way back from Anui, Gigi tied his son to 
one of the outriggers and told him that he would try and swim to Ma- 
buiag for help. Adiad pleaded to be allowed to swim, too, but Gigi refused 
to let him make the attempt. "Stay here until I come back," he insisted. 


2. A small island within Mabuiag's 
home reef. 

3. The islet mentioned in the previous 
story, "Saurkeke". 

4. Another small island within Mabui- 
ag's home reef. 

5. Akul, a swamp shell — a bivalve — 
formerly used for cutting. 

Gigi managed to reach Buia. 2 He walked along the beach to the north- 
western end of the island and looked towards the spot at which his canoe 
had sunk. "Adiad, my son," he grieved. 

Three dogai were watching Gigi from the top of the hill on Aipus. 3 
They had had their eyes on him since the moment he set foot on Buia. 
"Our husband," they said. 

Late in the afternoon Gigi began to feel very thirsty. There was no water 
on Buia, so, as the tide was out, he decided to walk across the reef to Aipus 
and look for some there. Not far from the top of the hill he found a pool 
and drank. Then he climbed to the top of the hill — and was grabbed by 
the dogai. "You are our husband. You must stay here and never leave us," 
they told him. 

Straight away the three dogai dug some yams and roasted them for 
Gigi's evening meal, but what they brought him were the charred skins — 
they had scraped out the fleshy part and thrown it away! Gigi explained 
that it was the fleshy part he wanted, so they gathered it up and gave it to 

Many days passed. The dogai fed Gigi on yams which they dug on 
Aipus, but the time came when there were no more yams on Aipus to be 
dug, and then the dogai said to their husband: "You will have to stay and 
look after our home while we go to Widul 4 and dig yams for you there. 
Don't you run away, Gigi." 

Before very long, there were no more yams to be dug at Widul, and 
the dogai had to go to Mabuiag for yams for Gigi's evening meals. 

First of all they dug at Awana Mai. Then they had to go to Dawalnga, 
and after that to Kai Pad. Each new place they went to was further from 
Aipus than the last. One night they told Gigi that there were no more 
yams at Kai Pad and they would have to go to Bulbul. 

After the dogai left for Bulbul next morning, Gigi said: "It will be very 
late when they arrive home today. Bulbul is a long way from Aipus. If I 
run fast, I should be able to reach Dabangai before they get back." But in 
order to be able to gain a little more time for himself, he took a louse from 
his hair and put it in one half of an akul (shell) 5 which he placed on the 
ground in the middle of the dogai' s home. "Louse," said Gigi, "when 
the dogai return this afternoon they will say: 'Gigi, where are you?' Then 
you say: T am still here.' " And with that, Gigi ran down the hill. 

That morning there was a very low tide, so the whole reef was dry, and 
Gigi was able to run all the way from Aipus to Dabangai. His people saw 
him from a distance and ran to meet him. "Gigi, where have you been? 
What happened to you?" they wanted to know. 

Gigi said: "I'll tell you all about it later on. Right now there's no time 
to be lost, because three dogai will be coming for me pretty soon. They've 


had me for their husband all this time, but I ran away from them this 

All the men armed themselves with bows and arrows and clubs and 
harpoons and spears, and then everyone got into the canoes and went out 
to the edge of the reef Gigi said: "They should have arrived back at Aipus 
from Bulbul by now. Keep a sharp look out." 

Presently a cloud of small butterflies (peitawal) flew towards the canoes. 
Soon afterwards dragonflies (kuipul) appeared. And then everyone saw 
the three dogai off Dabangai point. 

"Gigi! Come here, Gigi!" ordered the dogai. 

"You come here!" Gigi countered. 

"You are a bad husband," shouted the dogai. "We dug yams for you 
every day and fed you well, yet you ran away from us." 
"You come here!" Gigi called. 

The dogai advanced on the canoes and were harpooned by the men of 

The three dogai turned to stone at the edge of the reef. They are still 
there. The people of Mabuiag call them Dogail. 6 

6. The correct plural of dogai. 


[Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, 6 October 1967] 

This is the story of a man named Waiat who was a very powerful sorcerer. 
He had another name, Naga. Most people called him Naga. 

Naga lived on Widul with his wife, Waba, and his daughter, Gainau. 
He had a sister, Kuda, who lived at Wagedagam 1 on Mabuiag with her 
two sons, Waimugi and Samugi. 

No hair grew on Naga's face — he was beardless like a woman, and he 
had breasts like a woman. His sister Kuda had a beard like a man, and she 
had no breasts. 

Kuda had a big drum (warup) 2 which she beat every night for her sons 
to dance to. Naga heard it at Widul. 

Naga's favourite pastime was a game which he played with a seed-pod 
rattle iguat) tied to the end of a length of vine. He used to throw the rattle 
over the branch of a tree and let it fall to the ground, and then jerk it up by 

1. Not far from Widul. 

2. This drum had two names: Izalu and 


3. Waiatan baba-sigamai waru (feather 
bearded Waiat's turtle). 

4. A small part of Wagedagam. 

pulling on the vine-rope. In falling to the ground the rattle went: "Lu! 
Lu! Lu!" As Naga jerked it upwards it went: "Wo! Wo! Wo!" 

One day Naga visited his sister at Wagedagam and told her to give him 
her drum, her flat chest, and her beard, promising her his breasts in 
return. The exchange was made. 

Not long afterwards Naga was out in his canoe hunting for turtle. When 
he caught one he said to the men who were crew for him that day: "No 
one but me may put a knife into this turtle. It is mine, Waiat's. It belongs 
to feather-bearded Waiat." 3 Then he ordered them to return to Widul 
and after they had carried the turtle ashore, told them that his nephews, 
Waimugi and Samugi, would dance for him that evening in the red after- 
glow of the sun. 

He gave instructions for cooking the turtle in an earth-oven and sent 
some men to Bedam 4 to cut young, white coconut fronds. "Perform this 
task secretly," he commanded. "Drag the fronds under the water on your 
way back to Widul. Should anyone see you, either while you are cutting 
the fronds, or while you are bringing them back, kill him." 

While the men were cutting the fronds, Naga's wife and daughter 
walked past Bedam on their way to fetch water from the well, Awana 
Mai. The men killed them. 

Naga questioned the men upon their return to Widul. "Did anyone see 
you?" he asked them. "Your wife and daughter saw us," the men replied. 
"Did you kill them?" pressed Naga. And when they told him that they 
had killed Waba and Gainau, he approved their action. 

That evening Naga stuck feathers of the white crane to his face with 
beeswax, and then he began to beat the drum that he had obtained from 
his sister, Kuda. Presently his nephews came into sight. To Naga it looked 
as if they were dancing at Saul Ngur, the southern point of the neighbour- 
ing island, Marte, whereas, in fact, they were dancing at the northern end 
of Widul. Waimugi and Samugi danced to the beat of Naga's drum until 
it grew late. Then they lay down, covered themselves with mats, and slept. 
Naga was still beating his drum. The men at Widul fell asleep to the sound 
of Naga's drum. 

( Wa) ngai Izalu (wa) (wa) Zapulu (wa), 
(Wa) ngai taitalgar sika (wa) taitalgar (e), 

sang Naga, recalling the sympathy and encouragement (taitalgar) that he 
had always received from the wife whom he had had killed. 

(Wa) ngai Izalu (wa) (wa) Zapulu (wa), 
(Wa) ngai taitalgar sika (wa) taitalgar (e), 

mourned Naga. 


Waimugi and Samugi woke during the night and, feeling hungry, cut 
some meat from the turtle that Naga had caught that morning. After- 
wards they went back to sleep. Naga was still singing and beating his 

At last he stopped. His nose was streaming, for he had wept the whole 
time he had sung and beaten his drum. Now, in clearing his nose, he re- 
moved so much mucus that when he threw it at a stone it hit so loudly as 
to starde the sleeping birds at Tipait Ngur. 5 They flew up into the air. 

Naga felt hungry, so he went to his cooked turtle for meat. When he 
found that flesh had been cut from it, he walked to his sleeping nephews 
and, seeing turtle grease around their mouths, killed them by driving the 
pointed end of a bu shell into their eyes. 

Afterwards he returned to his quarters, got his waist iana, 6 hung it over 
his shoulder, and walked to the beach. There he took from his walsi 
iana the feathered wing of a man-o-war hawk and blew it into the water, 
where it transformed itself into a canoe. He stepped into the canoe and, 
at that moment, heard a drum beating to the south. 

Naga travelled towards it and so came to Koteid on Badu. He asked the 
people of that place if the drum he had heard was theirs. They said that 
it was not. They had heard a drum south-east of Koteid. 

He sailed south-east to Widui on Mua and there learned that the people 
had heard a drum in the direction of Totalai. At Totalai the people told 
him that they had heard a drum at It. At It the people said that the drum- 
beats came from the island of Nagi. 

So Naga returned to his canoe and, as he sailed away from Mua Point 
to cross the sea to Nagi, pulled all the feathers from his face and flung them 
shorewards. Some fluttered halfway up the hill before they fell to the 
ground, but all turned to white stones (which you may see today). 

There was no one at Nagi. Naga saw coconut-leaf dancing skirts 
scattered about on the ground and the ashes of a dead fire. That was all. 
But he could hear a drum, and the sound came from the east. He sailed 
east and came eventually to Waier. 

5. A point at the north-western end of 

6. Walsi iana, bag in which a sorcerer 
kept his aids to magic when he 
travelled. It was made from teased 
bark fibre. 


[Told by Dakanatai Kiris at Mabuiag, 28 September 1967] 

1. Dangal augadalgal (people whose 
augad [totem] was dangal [dugong]) 
lived at Dabangai on Mabuiag. 

2. The people of Mabuiag call this spot 
Markai Kabauzmga {markai dance- 
ground). It is a patch of bare ground 
in striking contrast to the mangrove- 
fringed coastline immediately north 
and south of it. 

The older boys of Dabangai 1 often went to Gainau Kasa at night and 
played. A young boy named Kama used to follow them. 

Kama's mother always worried about her son when he went to Gainau 
Kasa. "My son," she warned, "you are too young to go off like this. 
One of these nights the older boys will come home without you. You will 
go to sleep, and they will forget you." But Kama insisted on going. "I 
won't get lost. I won't get left behind," he used to say to his mother. 

One night he fell asleep under a bodau tree while the older boys were 
playing and when they were ready to go home they did not give Kama a 
thought. "Where is Kama?" his mother asked the moment she saw that 
her son had not come back with them. The boys ran all the way to the 
bodau tree at Gainau Kasa, but he was not to be seen. He had been stolen 
by markai. 

The markai kept Kama for three moons. Then they decided to give him 
back to his parents. They took him as far as a spot in the mangroves north 
of Dabangai, and, after giving him a message for his mother and father, 
sent him on alone from there. Kama was to tell his parents that the markai 
were going to leave a present of dugong and dolphin for them at that spot. 

When Kama was out of sight, the area around the markai denuded itself 
of trees, 2 and the markai danced. 

The people of Dabangai saw Kama walking towards them. "Kama! 
Kama is coming!" they shouted. They ran and met him. When they 
reached him they said: "You have the stink of markai on you." Kama said 

His mother's brothers told his mother that she was to take him down to 
the sea and make him swim in order to rid him of the foul smell that 
emanated from him. Still Kama said nothing. His jaws were locked tight. 

The following morning his mother made him swim in the sea again. 
Afterwards she rubbed his body with cream of coconuts, and then, clean 
and sweet-smelling, Kama recovered the power of speech. 

When his parents heard from him about the present of dugong and 
dolphin meat, they went to Markai Kabauzinga and brought it back to 



[Told by Maurie Eseli at Mabuiag, 4 October 1967] 

The people of Wagedagam sent a man named Tawaka with a gift of biu 
sama 1 for their friends at Bau, 2 but Tawaka arrived at Bau empty-handed, 
having left all the biu sama at Dadakulau Gud, a spot on top of the high 
ridge between Wagedagam and Bau. 

The people of Bau were surprised to see Tawaka and asked him why he 
had come. "Just to see you," he told them. When he said he was going 
home, they brought strings of dugong meat for him to take to their friends 
at Wagedagam. 

Tawaka climbed up to Dadakulau Gud, sat down and ate all the biu 
sama that he had left there earlier in the day and the dugong as well. He 
rested for a while after he had finished eating and then walked the rest of 
the way to Wagedagam. The people were surprised that he brought no 
present for them from their friends at Bau. 

The same thing happened several days in succession: Tawaka set out 
from Wagedagam with biu sama for the people of Bau, and he began the 
return journey from Bau with strings of dugong meat for the people of 
Wagedagam. But the gifts of food were never received by those for whom 
they were intended — Tawaka ate the lot at Dadakulau Gud on his way 

After a while the people of Wagedagam became suspicious of Tawaka, 
for they could scarcely believe that their friends at Bau had not reciprocated 
with gifts in kind. So some of the men followed him one day, in order to 
learn what happened when Tawaka went to Bau. 

They went no further than Dadakulau Kula. There they hid behind 
some bushes and waited for Tawaka to come back. They let him eat every 
scrap of the dugong meat that he should have taken to Wagedagam and 
every one of the biu sama that he should have given to the people of Bau. 
Then they rushed from their hiding place and killed him with their clubs. 

After covering his body with stones, 3 they walked home to Wagedagam 
and told the people about Tawaka's greed. 

1. Biu sama. In former times in the 
Western Islands of Torres Strait, biu, 
the rod-like depending seedling of a 
species of mangrove, was a staple 
item of diet. It was not eaten raw, 
needing careful preparation and cook- 
ing to render it edible and palatable. 

The embryo seedlings of biu were 
plucked when they turned yellow- 
green in colour. Each was then nicked 
lengthwise. When a sufficient num- 
ber had been treated in this way, they 
were placed in an earth-oven and 
cooked for approximately one hour, 
after which the sand and leaves were 
removed from the earth-oven, and 
the biu taken out and allowed to cool. 
They were then placed in a basket 
and the basket and its contents steeped 
in fresh water for three days. 

At the end of that time the basket 
was taken from the water and the 
pulp scraped from each seedling. 
Finally, the pulp was squeezed with 
hands (to rid it of excess moisture) 
and shaped into balls (sama) which 
were stored in dry baskets. 

2. On the opposite side of Mabuiag. 

3. The heap of stones beneath which 
Tawaka is said to have been buried 
can still be seen at Dadakulau Gud. 



PLAY [Told by Manase Bani at Mabuiag, 27 September 1967] 

1. Kaigas, the shovel-nosed ray, Rhyn- 
chobatus djiddensis (Forskal). Kaigas 
men were men whose totem was 

2. The opposite side of the island to 
Sipingur and Panai. 

3. A creek on Badu. 

4. It reached to the shoulders and had 
an opening for the man's mouth. 

5. The informant said that the mask 
was used for crocodile play (kadalau 
sagul) which included song, dance, 
and distribution of food by the kadal 
people to members of the other, 
smaller groups of people (kaigas, and 
dangal [dugong] augadalgal). He said 
that the mask was given to a member 
of the Cambridge Expedition by a 
man named Gizu. 

Awailau Kasa (wa) (a) (a) (a) (a) 
(A) (a) (a) nguzu lag (a) (e). 
Ubiri kuhiri, Ubiri kubiri, 
Dum sena dum, dum sena dum. 

(Crocodile, Crocodile, Awailau Kasa is 
your home. That's your place.) 

Kutal Mazia bau bau tapia, 
Iut (e) (ia) singe iut (e) (ia), 
Kutal Mazia bau. 

(The reef, Kutal Maza, looks like a 
crocodile being drawn through the 
water by a string through its jaw.) 

One cloudy night when there was scarcely any light from the moon, some 
kaigas men 1 of Sipingur killed a crocodile by mistake while hunting for 
dugong. They took it to the people of Wagedagam 2 who, seeing it, burst 
into tears, because their totem was crocodile (kadal). They mourned it for 
many days afterwards. 

So the men of Sipingur went to Awailau Kasa, 3 harpooned another 
crocodile and examined it very carefully. Then they returned to Mabuiag 
and made a turtle-shell replica of it in the form of a mask which could be 
slipped on over a man's head. 4 

When it was finished, the men of Sipingur took it to the men of Wage- 
dagam and gave it to them, saying: "We have made this crocodile for 

The people of Wagedagam dried their tears and danced round their 
plaything. 5 



[Told by Manase Bani at Mabuiag, 27 September 1967] 

A party of men, all of whom were young and unmarried except one named 
Waiaba, set out in a canoe to hunt turtle and dugong. 

At Sarbi, a small island close to Mua, they went ashore and dug up many 
nests of turtle 1 eggs. Afterwards they paddled to Mua and landed at 
Totalai, where they visited the gardens belonging to the people of that 
place and dug up many yams. These they loaded into their canoe, and then 
they returned to their homes at Mabuiag. 

Several days later they decided to go again to Sarbi and Totalai for 
turtle eggs and yams. 

By that time, however, the Mualgal had discovered the theft from their 
gardens and were constantly on the watch for strangers. Therefore, when 
they saw a Mabuiag canoe approaching, they said: "These must be the 
men who stole our yams. Let us welcome them appropriately." And they 
spread a mat in the shade of a tree close to the beach and placed stone- 
headed clubs beneath the mat. 

Upon arriving at Totalai, Waiaba said to the young men: "Stay with the 
canoe. I shall go alone to the gardens." The Mualgal watched from behind 
bushes as he walked across the beach, and then they clubbed him and cut 
off his head. One of the Mualgal held it up for the men in the canoe to see. 
The canoe put back to Mabuiag immediately. 

A plan was formed at Mabuiag to avenge the killing of Waiaba, and the 
men made ready their fighting gear. The two Kuiam augad 2 — crescentic 
emblems of turtle-shell — were rubbed with the scented leaves of takar and 
matua. "The Mualgal have sparked off a mighty blaze (Ina Mualgal kai mux 
nitungul)," said the men of Mabuiag. 

Meanwhile at Mua the people of Totalai had moved some distance 
inland to Toit, knowing full well the retribution that would be exacted 
for Waiaba's head. They likened the coming fight to the fire which results 
from setting alight dead grass which has stood for several years without 
burning off (Ina rtgalpa senakai kai mui ngari guit waiangul). 

Many canoes were paddled across from Mabuiag to Mua. They arrived 
after dark and, in the middle of the night, ran into the mangroves where 
they were screened from sight. At first light, the men went ashore and 
formed into two lines, each under the leadership of a man who wore a 

This tale was given as a factual account 
of the last fight between Mabuiag and 
Mua. I was told that it took place shortly 
before the London Missionary Society 
began its work in Torres Strait in 1871. 

1. Of unuwa, the hawksbill turtle. 

2. Replicas of the legendary augad, giri- 
bu and kutibu, fashioned by Kuiam 
for his own use in fighting. 


Mabuiag warriors. When the men of 
Mabuiag fought, they advanced in two 
columns led by two men who each wore 
a replica of a Kuiam augad and a special 
head-dress with "owl" or "ghost" eye- 
pieces. The men they led wore head- 
dresses of white feathers known as dari. 
Concerning the augad worn by the lea- 
ders, one warrior wore an augad on his 
chest, the other wore an augad on his 
back. The custom goes back to the story 
of Kuiam. 

Artist Ephraim Bam 

3. "The shark of Zugu" — synonym for 
the fighting men of Mabuiag. Zugu 
is a reef close to Mabuiag. 

Kuiam augad. In this formation they moved silently through the zanga 
trees, their presence on Mua known only to surka, who called an alarm from 
time to time. 

Very early that morning, a woman and her small daughter walked some 
distance from Toit to pluck fruit from a kupa tree. While her mother was 
filling her baskets, the little girl saw the two leaders of the Mabuiag fighters. 
Frightened, she ran to her mother and buried her head in her mother's 
grass skirt. "What are they?" she whispered. "Are they ghosts?" When the 
mother saw them she said: "Daughter, the shark of Zugu 3 is streaking 
towards its prey for the kill (Kai senakai zugutiam walmai-ima). See, behind 
the two augad are the feather head-dresses (dart) of the men whom they lead. 
That is why surka has called so often. We must try to warn the people at 
Toit." They were too late. 

Before the mother and daughter reached their people, the men from 
Mabuiag had already begun to shoot arrows at the Mualgal; soon they 
were fighting at close quarters with their clubs. The dust raised by pound- 
ing feet on dry earth was like smoke. When it settled, all the Mualgal were 
dead but one man who had managed to escape by running away. He was 
pursued, killed by a blow from a gabagaba, and beheaded. 


[Told by Maurie Eseli for Jimmy Luffman 
at Mabuiag, 14 October 1967] 

Gi, whose totem was dangal (dugong), lived at Dabangai on the island of 
Mabuiag. He had two wives, one, a woman of Mabuiag, the other, a 
markai (ghost). The eldest child by the Mabuiag wife was a son, Anu; 
the eldest child by the markai was also a son, Wizu. Gi lived with his human 
wife during the daylight hours; he spent the nights with his markai wife. 

It sometimes happened that a man lost the kuiur 1 from his wap when he 
was hunting dugong. As soon as he arrived back at Dabangai, he sought 
out Gi and told him of his loss. That night, Gi would go into the bush and 
tell the markai about it. The markai would search for it until they found it 
and then bring it to Gi who would give it to its owner the next morning. 
A man who lost a harpoon could count on getting it back if he enlisted 
Gi's services. 

Gi used to visit Mari Kula, 3 a boulder on top of the big hill, Kai Pad. 
Sometimes he would see a ghost standing beside it, the ghost of a living 
person. In every instance, that person died soon afterwards. One day, he 
saw the ghost of his grown-up son, Anu, at Mari Kula. Sad at heart, he 
returned to his home at Dabangai. Anu died that afternoon. 

Gi told his wife that, with the help of his son-in-law, he was going to 
take Anu to a spot on the beach a little to the east of Kuburau Kasa (a 
creek) and stay with him throughout the night while Anu took the living 
form of a dugong. 4 In the morning, his son-in-law and male relatives 
would come to Kuburau Kasa, and, together, he and they would take 
Anu's body on a stretcher made from bamboo poles to Muwaukazi, near 
Maid, for placing on a sara. 5 He had very good reasons for wishing to 
have Anu's sara at Maid, because that was where he went at night to visit 
his markai wife; he would, therefore, be able to see his son's body every 
time he visited her. 

So Gi spent the night near the mouth of Kuburau Kasa — thick scrub 
used to grow there, but Gi never feared to be alone at night — and placed 
Anu's body on the sara at Muwaukazi the following morning. He spent the 
rest of the day at Dabangai and returned to the sara after dark, intending to 
learn how Anu's ghost left his dead human body. 

Gi saw lights like flames appear at the tip of every branch at the top of 
every tree which grew at Muwaukazi. Soon afterwards a markai peeped 
out of the ground and looked all around before he finally emerged fully. 
Gi saw that this was a very strange markai — he was, in fact, only half a 
markai. Buli was his name. Buli had only half a face — one eye, one nostril, 


1. Kuiur, detachable barbed harpoon. 

2. Wap, long, heavy spear, into one end 
of which the harpoon (kuiur) is 

3. Mari Kula — literally, ghost stone 
(mari, ghost; kula, stone). 

4. His augad, i.e. totem. Maurie Eseli 
said that the old belief was that, 
during the night after he died, a 
person took the form, and behaved 
in the manner, of the animal creature 
which was his totem. 

5. It was customary to place a corpse on 
a platform called sara. 


one ear, half a mouth — half a body, one leg, and one arm. He carried a 
drum which he now began to beat. Immediately, many white-clad markai 
came up out of the ground — men, women, and children, amongst them 
Gi's wife, who carried a baby in her arms, Gi's child. Gi went to her at 

Buli beat the drum a second time. Hearing it, the male markai formed 
themselves into a row. He beat it once more, and the markai began to 
dance. Their leader was Wizu, Gi's eldest son by his markai wife. Wizu 
held a club in one hand. 

Wizu danced towards the sara, and Anu's ghost left the body on the 
sara and ran to meet Wizu. When the two came close together, Wizu hit 
Anu's ghost on the head and said: "M markai Kabarimai (You are markai 
Kabarimai)." After that, both Wizu and Anu's ghost, markai Kabarimai, led 
the dancing, and as they danced they intoned these words: 

Ngalbai kuikul gubarka ulmeukaka, 
Pai taparid sika matui nageumaka , 
Ngalbai markai, Wizuwal a Kabarimaiwal. 

(We, the leaders of the dance, we who wear 
markai eyepieces, we cause the dust to 
swirl upwards with our movements, we two 
markai, Wizu and Kabarimai.) 

The dancing continued until close on daybreak, at which time all the 
markai sank down into the ground, and Gi was left suddenly alone at 

One day, Gi went in search of markai and did not find them for a long 
time. When, at last, he saw them — at Budaukuik — they were standing in a 
circle, heads bowed, silent, staring at something which lay on the ground. 
He asked them the reason for their unusual behaviour. One of the markai 
said: "Dabangai mudna Bauaka tamaik ngalmun gul palga-paleka (When the 
people of Dabangai move to Bau, our canoe will be wrecked)." Gi asked 
where their canoe was. "It lies on the ground in the middle of this circle 
of markai," he was told. Gi pushed the markai aside. 

On the ground lay a body wrapped around with a mat, and Gi recog- 
nized the toes which protruded from the bundle as his own. He went home 
to his wife at Dabangai and told her what he had seen, and then he burst 
into tears. 

The people who lived at Dabangai soon learned why Gi wept. The head 
sorcerer forbade them ever to move to Bau, saying that he and his fellow 
sorcerers would kill anyone and everyone who went there to live. 

Three days later, missionaries of the London Missionary Society arrived 
at Mabuiag 6 and landed at Dabangai. Before long they persuaded the 
people of Dabangai to go and live at Bau. The night of the day that they 
6. In the year 1872, or thereabouts. went to their new home, Gi died. 


stories from DAUAN 


[Told by Anau Mau at Dauan, 12 October 1968] 

Kaudab lived at Burugud. He was an expert dugong hunter. He used to 
spend the daylight hours when the tide was low examining the reef for 
signs that dugong had grazed and making preparations for hunting at 
night. When Kaudab saw dugong tracks, he knew which kind of dugong 
had made them : whether a male or a female, or a female and child (apu- 
kaz). He spent the night hours on the dugong platform (nat) which he had 
erected close to the spot at which a dugong had stopped eating grass the 
previous night. After he harpooned a dugong, his crew helped him take 
it ashore, where he cut it up on top of a big, flat rock. This meat he shared 
with the rest of the people at Burugud. 

Kaudab was never far from his harpoon (kuiur) and dugong spear (wap). 
If he was not using them, the wap stood against the mekei tree beside which 
he lived, and, close beside it on the ground, were his kuiur and amu (rope) 
and topi iana. 

Not far from Burugud lived a girl named Bakar. She often heard people 
speak about Kaudab's prowess as a dugong hunter, and she used to ask her 
parents what kind of creature a dugong was, never having seen one be- 
cause she was not permitted to leave her home. She was a very beautiful 
girl, so beautiful that she was not expected to do any work. So Bakar 
spent her days sitting cross-legged on a fine mat (minalai waku). She was 

And there was dogai Giz. Giz knew all about Kaudab. She used to sit 
in a stone look-out above the rocks at the edge of the reef and watch him 
all day long, because she wanted the handsome young man with the soft 
red hair 3 as husband. She regarded Kaudab as hers and, because she was a 
very jealous dogai, never let him out of her sight. 

One morning while Kaudab was out on the reef his relatives went to 
Bakar's parents and asked for Bakar as wife for him. They consented to 
the match, so Kaudab's relatives returned to Burugud and came back later 
in the day bringing Kaudab with them. 

Kaudab was wearing a kadik (bracer) on his left arm and musur (woven 
armlets) on both upper-arms, and he carried his bow and arrows. Bakar 
sat waiting on her fine mat, unsmiling. Kaudab shot an arrow marked 

1. Topi iana, the bag in which he kept 
his aids to magic. This bag, or travel- 
ling basket, was made from the 
teased fibres of the bark of a tree. 

2. Wakuniaingawakaz , mat-stay-girl 
(waku, mat; niai, stay, sit; ngawakaz, 

3. Kaudab's hair was wavy, not tightly 
curled. It was said to have been 
bleached red by sun and salt water. 
According to Anau Mau, red hair 
was admired. He said the copper-red 
colour (kiris) was the result of con- 
stant exposure to sun and salt. Thus, 
a man who spent a lot of time fishing 
and hunting came to have hair this 
colour. Red hair could also be ob- 
tained by dyeing it, the method being 
to rub the hair with a mixture of salt 
water and ashes of burnt wongai skins 
(wongai [or ubar], the wild plum of 
Torres Strait). 


4. Mokan, a sea "toad" which puffs it- 
self round and globe-shaped when 

5. Near the coast of New Guinea. 

6. Dogai were said to speak a confused 
gabble of the Island tongue. Here, 
Giz was trying to say: "Iagar (alas!) 
Pak na lag (where are the tongs), 
ngazu Kaudab (my Kaudab), ngazu 
alai (my husband)?" 

with red ochre (parma) into the ground beside her. Then he and his 
relatives took Bakar to her new home at Burugud. 

Giz saw and was furious. "You go first, but I'll come after. You'll 
suffer before long, my girl," Giz threatened from a distance. 

Kaudab continued to hunt for dugong, and Bakar now went daily to 
the reef. Giz watched Bakar, waiting for a suitable moment to seize her 
and send her away from Dauan. 

One day when Bakar was walking on the reef looking for octopus, Giz 
willed the young wife to come close to her — Giz was in her usual place, 
the stone look-out above the rocks at the edge of the reef — and, when 
Bakar came near, went down to a pool and changed into an octopus. 

Up to this time, Bakar had not seen a single octopus. Now she saw a 
big one. From her basket she took bait — mokan 4 tied to one end of the 
mid-vein of a dry banana leaf — and dangled it above the pool to lure the 
octopus from its hiding place under a rock. When the octopus emerged 
fully, Bakar grasped its head and tried to whip it from the pool, only to be 
wrapped round by the tentacles of the octopus and dragged into the 

Bakar knew this was no octopus, but a dogai. "Kaudab," she called. 
"Come here! Come quickly! I've been caught by a dogai." But Kaudab 
was a long way off, so he did not hear her. 

Giz took Bakar down to the entrance to Apangabia-taian — the tunnel 
under the sea — and sent her by this route to the island of Kusar. 5 She then 
changed her appearance to that of Bakar and went to Kaudab's home at 

That afternoon when Kaudab announced he would be leaving soon to 
go hunting, Giz prepared food for him — she knew the duties of a wife. 
But she was very clumsy and, instead of using tongs to remove the roasted 
food from the hot stones, used her fingers instead. "Ia ga ie!" she cried, 
when she burnt her fingers. "Pak za za, Kaudab, ga ie, ngazu aiai e (Where 
are the tongs, Kaudab, my husband)?" Kaudab looked at her in astonish- 
ment. What crazy cackle was this coming from his wife? Then she broke 
wind very crudely, and he understood: she was not Bakar, but a dogai who 
looked like Bakar. 


After she had walked for a long while in the tunnel under the sea, Bakar 
came up to the top of the water to see how far she had still to go. (A reef, 
Namul Maza, marks this spot.) Kusar lay not far ahead, so she returned to 
the tunnel and came up again at the tiny, mangrove islet, Kazi Kusar, off 

Bakar sat down and looked around her. Where would she sleep? There 
was a small patch of dry ground not far from where she was sitting, so 


7. The catching by a boy of his first fish 
is an important occasion. 

8. L'bu, a ti-tree which has bark like 
sheets of paper. 

9. Made from the bark of the yellow- 
flowering hibiscus tree. 

she broke branches from a ti-tree-like shrub called saur and made a shelter 
from them at that spot. For food she ate seeds from kusa trees. 

The following day when she bathed in the sea, she noticed that her 
breasts floated in the water, a sign to her that she was pregnant. 

Bakar gave birth to an egg. Because it had come from her body she 
looked after it well, and from it hatched a baby eagle for whom she cared 
as much as if it had been a child in human form. She named it Kusa Kap, 
after the kusa seeds (kapul) which she had eaten. 

Kusa Kap grew fast. He began to learn to fly. The day soon came when 
his wings were strong enough to take him to the top of a dead tree. From 
it he looked down at the sea and, spying some mullet, swooped down and 
caught one. He flew back with it and dropped it in Bakar's lap. Bakar said : 
"Why have you brought me a fish? You know we have no fire to cook it. 
However, it is the first fish you have caught, so I shall eat it." 7 

From that day, Kusa Kap regularly caught fish in the sea, but though he 
always brought some to his mother, she always refused to eat them. So 
Kusa Kap ate all the fish himself. He grew huge. 

That was what Bakar had been waiting for. She needed a big, strong 
son to fetch the things that she wanted from Posipas, a woman who lived 
on the mainland. "My son," she said to Kusa Kap one day, "fly to Posipas 
and sit down beside her. She will ask you whose son you are and name 
several people. When she says my name, nod your head up and down. 
When she asks why I sent you to her, fly to a bundle of ubu % bark, to mod 
(string), to upi (a bamboo knife), and to her fire. She will understand that 
I want these things from her and give them to you. Most of all, I need fire 
from her fire." 

So Kusa Kap flew to Posipas in Daudai and behaved exactly as his mother 
had told him. Thus Posipas learned that he was Bakar's son and that Bakar 
had sent him to ask for things that she needed. "How will you take ubu 
and upi and fire to your mother?" Posipas asked. For answer Kusa Kap 
turned his back to her. Posipas tied the roll of ubu to his back with mod. 
He turned and faced her. Posipas hung the upi from his neck with mod. 
Kusa Kap then snatched a coal from her fire and flew up into the air. He 
circled once above Posipas and afterwards flew straight to Bakar, landing 
at her feet. "Now we have everything we need," said Bakar. "I'll look 
after the fire and cook the fish that you catch." 

Next morning, Kusa Kap flew to the top of a mangrove tree and watched 
the sea. The tide was high. Presently he saw a strange animal, a young 
dugong (kazi dangaJ). Its behaviour was very odd. It spent a short time at 
the surface of the water and then went down to the sea-bed. He wondered 
if it were good to eat. He flew out and hovered above the spot where it 
was feeding and, when it came to the surface again, examined it very 


closely. The next time it came up, he seized it with his talons and took it 
to Bakar. Bakar cut it up and cooked it. 

But there was more meat than she and Kusa Kap could eat. "My son," 
said Bakar, "take some of this food to Posipas." Kusa Kap turned his back 
to his mother, she tied some cooked dugong to his back, and he flew to 
Daudai with it. When he returned to Kazi Kusar, he brought with him 
vegetables and water and tongs (pak) for his mother. 

Kusa Kap caught many dugong. His mother cooked them and regularly 
sent him to Posipas with a present of cooked meat. And every time he 
came back with gifts from Posipas for his mother. 

One day Bakar said to her son: "I want you to go to Dauan. Fly along 
the coast of Daudai to Gidigidsugu and then fly south to the island which 
was formerly my home. Your father lives there, not far from a beach 
behind which there is a grove of coconuts. If you see a dugong platform 
on the reef outside such a beach, a canoe at a landing place nearby, and a 
wap leaning against a mekei tree, you may be sure you have found the right 
place. Now go to your father for me." 

Kusa Kap found his father at Burugud and sat down beside him. Kaudab 
asked whose son he was and named several women, and when he said, 
"Is Bakar your mother?" Kusa Kap nodded to signify, "Yes". "Did she 
send you to me?" asked Kaudab. Kusa Kap flew to the steering oar (walnga) 
of his father's canoe, to the canoe itself, and to the top of the mast. Then he 
looked towards Daudai. Soon afterwards he flew back to his mother, 
leaving Kaudab with the knowledge that his real wife, Bakar, was alive 
and was somewhere to the north of Dauan. 

"Did you find your father?" Bakar asked her son. Kusa Kap nodded. 
"Fly back to him," said his mother. 

Kusa Kap returned to Dauan, circled Burugud and alighted on top of 
the mast of his father's canoe. While Kusa Kap had been absent, Kaudab 
had been preparing for the journey which was to take him to Bakar, and 
he now set out. With Kusa Kap to guide him, he soon reached Kazi Kusar 
and was greeted by Bakar. "Oh Kaudab, my good husband! You have 
come to take me home," she rejoiced. 

And after Bakar had told Kaudab about dogai Giz and the birth of Kusa 
Kap and her life at Kazi Kusar, Kaudab and Bakar boarded the canoe and 
sailed back to Dauan. Kusa Kap went with them, riding at the top of the 
mast as before. 

Like Kaudab, Kusa Kap now knew all about the dogai who had harmed 
Bakar. When the canoe landed at Burugud, he flew round in circles until 
he saw the false Bakar — dogai Giz — at his father's home near the mekei 
tree, and then he swooped down, caught her with his talons, and flew high 
into the air with her. 


Only then did dogai Giz learn that Bakar had been brought back to 
Dauan by Kaudab. "It doesn't matter what happens to me now," gabbled 
dogai Giz, "because I got what I wanted. I lived with your father for a long 
time as his wife. I punished that woman for taking him. I saw him first. 
He was mine. She should never have been his wife. But look what I did 
to her!" 

Kusa Kap heard her. He let her fall, grabbed her before she fell very far 
and flew on. He dropped her again, only to grab her with his talons, and 
carry her further away from Dauan. In that way he tormented dogai Giz 
for a long time — dropping her, grabbing her, flying with her, dropping 
her, grabbing her, flying with her. Giz vomited and excreted from terror 
and pain. 

All the while Kusa Kap had been working further and further south of 
Dauan. He looked back, saw that Dauan was far away, and flew very 
high. Then he let go of dogai Giz for the last time and flew back to Kaudab 
and his mother, Bakar. 

Dogai Giz fell into the sea and turned to stone. Ever since, that part of 
the sea has been called Dogail Malu (dogai sea). 


[Told by Anau Mau at Dauan, 12 October 1968] 

Kabai had an argument with the other men at Dauan one day about sun 
and moon, day and night, and kubil, darkness. Kabai said: "Sun and moon 
are two different things, and darkness is another thing altogether." Every- 
one else said: "You are wrong, Kabai. There is only one thing, kubil, dark- 
ness, and it changes its form into sun and moon. Kubil is day, and kubil is 
night, whether black or moonlit." "I'll go and find out," said Kabai. 

So Kabai slung over his shoulder his topi iana — the bag which contained 
his aids to magic — and went down to the canoe landing place on the beach 
where there are two big flat stones, took a feather from his topi iana, 
and threw it into the sea. The feather became a canoe (babagul, [magic] 
feather canoe), and Kabai set out in it. 

Zei, the south-west wind, bore him swiftly to Augar Gizu, a point on 
the coast of Daudai near Mabudauan, where he was met by a man named 


Gamia who, after asking Kabai where he was going, invited him to spend 
the night ashore. Next morning, Kabai asked Gamia to provide him with 
a good south-west wind and, with its help, sailed east along the coast of 
Daudai to Zagwan. 1 He slept there that night and the following day con- 
tinued his journey east. 

Kabai sailed on and on, day and night, night and day, out of sight of 
land, and at last reached Kibukut, the home of the spirits, at the end of the 
world. As he was running in to land, fruit of kuzub trees growing in the 
water at the edge of the sea fell on his head, immediately causing his hair 
to turn white — in that instant he became an old man. 

After Kabai stepped ashore, he addressed his canoe with magic words. 
It changed into a feather again and he put it in his topi iana. Then he set 
out to explore the strange place to which he had come. 

For a while he saw nothing to indicate that people lived at Kibukut, 
but then he came to a house; only, there were no foot prints on the 
ground around it. He went into the house. There were many skeletons 
lying on the floor, and, though he searched every corner, that was all he 
saw — skeletons. He returned to the spot at which he had landed and 
waited. The sun set. It began to grow dark. 

Inside the house, the skeletons changed to ghosts of human appearance 
and began to talk. Hearing the voices, Kabai walked back to the house and 
entered it. 

"Who are you? Where have you come from? What do you want?" he 
was asked. 

"The men at Dauan say that day and night, and sun and moon are only 
kubil in different forms, but I say that sun and moon and kubil are three 
different things, each separate and distinct from the other," Kabai told 

"You are right," said the ghosts. "Sun, moon, and night-without-light 
are three, not one. We have in our gardens light-coloured plants, plants 
less light in colour, and plants which are very dark. The first belong to the 
sun, the second to the moon, and the third to kubil, darkness. You were 
right all the time, Kabai. Spend the night with us in this house, and tomor- 
row we will show you the three kinds of plants." 

Kabai lay down on the floor in the centre of the house, and the ghosts 
lay around him in a circle; but while he was asleep, the ghosts changed 
back into skeletons, and Kabai, seeing them when he woke just before 
daybreak, left the house and waited outside for them to reappear as ghosts. 
This they did later in the morning when they said: "We are going to our 
gardens to fetch the plants that we promised to show you." 

While the ghosts were away, Kabai walked to the beach and transformed 
his magic feather into a canoe. Soon afterwards the ghosts loaded it with 1. A village in the Fly River delta. 


Anau Mau, who told this story, and his 
friend, Elisala Bigi, showed me a piece of 
pumice in the fork of a mango tree at 
Burugud. This, they said, was the pumice 
brought back to Dauan by Kabai; they 
had placed it in the tree for safe-keeping. 
The tree has grown round it and over it 
until it is now almost part of the tree. 

Anau and Elisala also showed me a 
coconut palm at Burugud. Kabai's coco- 
nut, they said, had grown into a tall palm 
and borne fruit for many years. It 
developed a branch which pointed 
straight to New Guinea. When the palm 
died, "old Naiama" replaced it with a 
coconut which had fallen from it. This 
grew into the coconut palm which I saw. 

three kinds of taro and three kinds of sugarcane, piling them in three heaps. 
In one were the light-coloured taro and sugarcane which belonged to the 
sun, in another, taro and sugarcane which belonged to the moon, neither 
very light in colour nor very dark. In the third were the dark-coloured taro 
and sugarcane of kubil, darkness, night-without-light. 

Kabai walked back with the ghosts to their house and slept in it again 
that night. In the morning he went straight to his canoe. "Give me a north- 
east wind (naiger) to take me home," he called to the ghosts, and naiger 
at once blew strong. One ghost came and put a coconut in the stern of his 
canoe. "Shorten my journey to Dauan," said Kabai to this ghost as he set 

During the day, midway between Kibukut and Bramble Cay, Kabai 
saw a big, round piece of pumice floating in the sea. He caught it and 
placed it in his canoe. He reached Augar Gizu that evening, spent the night 
with Gamia, and crossed to Dauan in the morning. His journey from 
Dauan to Kibukut had taken many years, but it took him only one day 
to return from Kibukut to Dauan. 

When Kabai set out from Dauan, his wife was pregnant, and he had 
told her that if the baby was a girl she was to be given the name, Kadau. 
When he arrived home, his daughter was a grown-up girl. She ran down 
to the beach to greet him. His wife followed. 

Kabai showed the taro and sugarcane to the people of Dauan. "You see?" 
he said. "These plants belong to the sun, these to the moon, and those to 
kubil. Sun, moon, and darkness are not one, but three." The men had 
nothing to say. Kabai had proved his point. 

He and his wife and his daughter, Kadau, took the piece of pumice and 
the coconut from Kibukut to the opposite side of the island. He placed 
the pumice in a pool of water in a low-lying area at Burugud and planted 
the coconut close by. And when that had been done, Kabai, his wife, and 
Kadau walked to the big rock called Boiguturau Kula and sat down on 
top of it. 


[Told by Elisala Bigi at Dauan, 12 October 1968] 

1. In front of the present Mission House. 

Gabai lived at Buli, 1 a village on Dauan. Most days, he used to walk round 
the island reef to Badukut and Burugud, spearing fish as he went, and then 


return home by the overland path. But sometimes — when low tide 
occurred very early in the morning — he went out from Badukut to a 
lagoon called Dogail Dan before coming in at Burugud. What he did 
depended on the tide. 

Now whenever Gabai went fishing he was watched by a number of 
dogai. "That's a fine-looking man. Look at his red hair! What a handsome 
fellow he is!" they used to gabble away to each other. The dogai decided 
that he would make an excellent husband for them, so they began to plan 
how to catch him. 

The head dogai was Mekial Pad. The other dogai were Katauna Piti, 
Taugin, Kauar, Toran, Samun, and Usau Kuik. Their names are the 
names of places on Dauan — each of the dogai had her home at the place by 
which she was known. Thus, for example, dogai Mekial Pad lived in a cave 
on the side of the hill called Mekial Pad. 

Mekial Pad said one day: "Tomorrow, some of us will watch Gabai 
from my cave, and some of us will go to Burugud and change into a 
cluster of fruit at the top of the mekei tree which grows there. Gabai will 
be hungry when he comes in from fishing. He'll see the ripe fruit and 
knock them down — and find them change into dogai. We'll easily catch 
Gabai then." The other dogai agreed that this was a very good plan. 

Gabai was very hungry when he came in from the reef the following 
day. ("He's coming!" called the dogai in the cave on Mekial Pad to the 
dogai in mekei form.) After walking through the mangroves at Burugud, 
he came to the mekei tree and, seeing the ripe mekei, knocked them down 
with a stick. 

The plan had worked. Gabai was grabbed by the dogai and taken to the 
cave on Mekial Pad — the dogai had got the man they wanted for husband. 
Gabai thought: "For how long will I have to stay with these dogai} Will I 
never be able to escape?" 

The next day, the dogai went away and dug yams, before they set out, 
placing a big, flat stone on top of the cave to prevent Gabai from escaping 
during their absence. After they returned, they roasted the yams, scraped 
away the charred, crusty, outside part of the roots and gave that to Gabai 
for his meal. They began to eat the floury part of the yams themselves. 
"Give me some of what you are eating," said Gabai. The dogai obeyed 
their husband. 

After he had eaten his meal of yam, Gabai felt thirsty. "Bring me some 
water," he said. The dogai left the cave and came back with their urine. 
Gabai sent them to fetch fresh water, and again the dogai obeyed their 

Gabai was held prisoner by the dogai for so long that he came to think 
he would never escape. His seven dogai wives were all heavily pregnant. 


He was painfully hungry the whole time. The dogai never forgot to seal 
him in the cave when they left him by himself. Gabai was in despair. 

One day, not long before the dogai were due to have their babies, Gabai 
said to them: "Cut down a kusi palm and bring me some of its wood." 
The dogai had no idea why he wanted them to do this and said so. "I have 
nothing to do during the day while you are away. Bring me some kusi 
wood, and I'll be able to make something from it," he explained. The 
dogai brought him the wood, and the next time they went to dig yams, he 
fashioned seven pointed sticks (kusiu burn) from it and hid them. 

The dogai gave birth to their children. 

One morning, not long afterwards, they said to Gabai: "We are going 
to a distant part of the island to dig yams today." And they left their 
babies behind in the cave with Gabai. Hardly were they gone when Gabai 
took the seven pointed sticks and drove one each into the soft spot on top 
of the head of a dogai baby, killing all seven. Then, using all his strength, 
he lifted the stone away from the top of the cave. 

Gabai now took a louse from his head and said to it: "If the dogai call 
out and say, 'Are you there, Gabai?' answer, 'I am here.' " Then he climbed 
out of the cave and began to run down the hillside. His legs were so weak 
that he often stumbled and fell. After a while his legs became stronger, 
however, and he eventually reached Kadau, not very far from Buli. He 
looked up at the sun and saw from its position in the sky that the dogai 
would soon be returning to Mekial Pad. Gabai ran as fast as he could the 
rest of the way to Buli. 

The people in his village were very surprised to see him — they had 
thought he was dead. They told him that they had searched for him, but 
gave up when they could not find him. 

Gabai told them the whole story of his capture by the dogai, and then 
he said: "There is no time to be lost. Those dogai will come looking for 
me and they'll be so angry that they will kill everyone of us if we are not 
well prepared to fight them. Load seven canoes with food and water. See 
that there is a harpoon and spear in each. And then everyone must get into 
the canoes and go and anchor in the sea between Buli and Kadau." 

Gabai continued: "These signs will herald the approach of the dogai: 
thunder and lightning, wind and rain; a swarm of mosquitoes followed by 
a swarm of sandflies; and finally, a cloud of butterflies. When you see the 
butterflies, you will know that the dogai are close at hand." 

Then Gabai led the people down to the beach, and, when all the canoes 
had been made ready, they got into them and stood out to sea between 
Buli and Kadau. Gabai took his position in the leading canoe. 

When the storm which broke soon afterwards was at its height, Gabai 
signalled to the canoes behind that the weather would soon clear. The calm 


fell. And, just as Gabai had said, the mosquitoes and sandflies and butterflies 
appeared in turn. 

Now the dogai were seen coming round Boiguturau Kula. They ran 
down to the beach at Kadau and began to chant: 

Gabai maia bui (e) 

Gabai kupuri mai 

Gabai mata keda ti-i-i-i-ti. 

They sang this song four times — the words are dogai language, and it is 
impossible to say exactly what they mean. Dogai tried to speak like Island 
people, but they muddled their speech. 

Each time they sang the song, they faced a different direction, raised 
their legs up and down in time with the words, and, when they came to 
the end of them, stooped low and charged forward, head out. Four times 
they did this — charging to the south-west, the north-west, the north-east, 
and the south-east. When they charged south-east, however, they did not 
break off but continued the movement and waded out to the canoes. 

They went straight towards Gabai in the leading canoe. "Why did you 
run away from us? We looked after you and fed you. Why did you run 
away?" they stormed at him. Gabai said to the dogai: "Each of you go to a 
different canoe." And the dogai obeyed. 

Mekial Pad swam to Gabai's canoe, and Gabai harpooned her. Her 
fellow dogai were harpooned by men in each of the other canoes. All the 
dogai swam back to the shore where they cut the ropes from the harpoons 
embedded in their backs, and then they ran back round Boiguturau Kula, 
discussing as they went what they should do now; should they go back to 
the cave on Mekial Pad and watch Gabai while he fished on the reef every 
day, or should they go to another island and so never see him again. They 
decided to leave Dauan and go to another island. 

When they reached the well called Usau Kuik, the dogai jumped into 
the water and made their way underground to another well, Sapu. There 
they came up and went and made sharp-pointed, stone chips with which 
they cut the harpoons from their backs. Afterwards they returned to Sapu. 

The seven dogai travelled under the bed of the sea a long way and came 
up at the reef, Sapul Maza. They looked back at Dauan. Ahead lay Gebar. 
They went down under the sea again and before long arrived at Gebar. 

The dogai from Dauan talked things over with the dogai who lived at 
Gebar. All the dogai from Dauan were determined to stay at Gebar, so 
Mekial Pad said to the dogai of Gebar: "We're not going back to Dauan. 
You'll have to go and live at Dauan." 

And that is what happened. The dogai of Gebar went and lived at Dauan, 
and the dogai of Dauan stayed on at Gebar. 


[Told by Anau Mau at Dauan, 21 September 1967] 

A man named Taikoko lived beside Amakuduluna Mai. 1 A girl named 
Butu lived at Wakaid. They were in love with each other. Every day, 
Taikoko fished on the reef outside Wakaid, and Butu watched him. 

Over his shoulder Taikoko wore a basket 2 in which he put fish as he 
speared them ; but there was a hole at the bottom of the basket, so the fish 
fell straight through to the reef. His hair was copper-red, bleached to that 
colour by sun and salt water. While he was walking on the reef at Wakaid, 
he used to sing : 

Taikoko ke! Taikoko ke! 
Nginuai nginuai Butu na ge? 
Nginuai nginuai Butu na ge? 

(Taikoko! Taikoko! 

Butu, my sweetheart, where are you?) 

One day Taikoko returned to his home after fishing, to see Butu's 
reflection in the water of Amakuduluna Mai. Believing what he saw to bd 
Butu herself, he dived in after her. He struck his head against a submerged 
log and was killed outright. 

When Butu saw that Taikoko was dead — she had been hiding in a tree 
which grew beside the well — she dived in to him. She, too, struck her head 
on the log and died. 



[Told by Elisala Bigi at Dauan, 12 October 1968] 

In Boibai, a village near a tributary of Mai Kasa, there lived a young boy 
named Malnga. One day his father found a small, stumpy, black snake 
which had a spike at the tip of its tail. He took it home and gave it to 
Malnga for a pet — not knowing that the snake was really a man who had 
gone inside a snake form. 

Kogia was kept in a cave and fed well. At the end of a day's hunting, 
the men of Boibai always threw him a pig and a wallaby, but Kogia grew 
so fast and became so huge that very soon a pig and a wallaby were too 
small a meal for him. Before long his body filled the entire cave, and he 
suffered from hunger the whole time. He began to plot how to obtain 
more food. 

Late one night, he set out for the village. So enormous was he that, 
when his head arrived at the village, part of his body still lay in a coil in 
the cave. He opened his mouth, and from it beamed light which enabled 
him to hunt for food. Thus he quickly found the people's bereg (food rack) 
upon which were cooked pigs and wallabies. Kogia extinguished the light 
by closing his mouth, and then he swallowed every animal on the bereg. 
Afterwards he returned to his cave and slept. 

Henceforth, Kogia made a regular practice of robbing the bereg in the 
village. The people were at a loss to explain the theft of their food, but it 
did not occur to them to suspect Malnga's pet. 

One night the men decided to watch for the thief and catch him in the 
act. They had eaten a heavy meal that evening, however, and, one by one, 
they fell asleep, all except a man who had yaws on both legs. The cold 
night air made his sores very painful, and this kept him from feeling 
drowsy. So, when Kogia arrived at the village and directed the beam of 
light from his mouth at the bereg, this man saw who was stealing their food. 
In the morning, he told Malnga's father about Kogia's thieving ways, and 
Malnga's father went to the cave, beat Kogia, and told him to leave 

Kogia crawled away into the scrub and coiled up inside a thick patch of 
lawyer vine. Later in the day, the children of Boibai found him and teased 
him by shooting toy arrows made from coarse, long grass called magad 

Two stories about Kogia are told at 
Dauan. Both are recorded here. 

According to informants at Dauan, the 
first is also told on the Papuan mainland 
"in the Tuger country, from Jerai to 
Gamar-Mai (just east of Buzi)". I do not 
think it has been previously recorded. 

The same informants at Dauan said 
that the second story is also told on the 
Papuan mainland, "from the coast at a 
point north of Dauan east to Sui (a village 
near the mouth of the Fly River)". Wirz 
(Folk-Lore, 1922) recorded it during a 
brief visit to Dauan in 1929. Haddon 
(Reports, I, 43) dismisses it as "of little 
interest or value". Certainly it came into 
being after contact with European in- 
fluence had been made — there is reference 
in it to a markai gagai (ghost bow, i.e., 
gun) which made the noise (nur) of 
thunder — but when, I do not know. The 
fact remains, however, that the people of 
Dauan told it in 1968 as one of their 
important myths. 


1. Magad, blady grass. At a number of 
islands in West Torres Strait, the 
children play a game, magadau sagul, 
in which they use sections of the 
leaves of blady grass, eight or nine 
inches in length, in such a way as to 
fire the mid-veins as toy arrows. 
Williams describes and sketches this 
game in his study of the Morehead 
River people, Papuans of the Trans- 
Fly (Oxford, 1935), pp. 441-42. 

Today, small, harmless, stumpy, black 
snakes, each with a spike at the tip of its 
tail, are often seen at Dauan. The people 
say that they are found at no other island 
in Torres Strait, and they call them kogia, 
believing them to be descended in some 
way from Kogia, the man who changed 
into that kind of snake and came to their 
island to live. Indeed, some say that 
Kogia, the man-who-is-Kogia-the-snake, 
still lives in Kogian Kula — Kogia's cave. 
Some nights a light is seen moving about 
on Lalau Pad: Kogia is looking for food 
as he formerly did at Boibai when he 
robbed the people's bereg. Sometimes, 
between Lalau Pad and the beach at 
Gulkun, they see a track which has been 
made by a big snake. 

(A reliable informant said that he had 
seen a kogia at Mabuiag in 1939. It dis- 
appeared, and has never been seen since.) 

at him. 1 Pricked and irritated, Kogia climbed a tree and wound himself 
round a branch. 

When the children told Malnga's father that they had seen Kogia, he 
went to look for the snake which had been his son's pet and, finding him, 
invited him to return to Boibai. For answer, Kogia uncoiled himself from 
the branch of the tree and crawled further into the scrub. Malnga's father 
tracked him through long grass the following day, but he did not catch 
up with him. No one at Boibai ever saw Kogia again. 

Kogia travelled south-east to Garber, where he could see the tip of the 
highest hill of Dauan. He thought he would like to make his home at that 
place, so, after collecting seedlings and seeds — of urwaba, sago, pud (the 
small variety of bamboo used for making arrows), and red-flowering 
hibiscus — and putting them in his topi iana, he set out for Dauan. 

From Garber he crawled to Gidigidsugu; from Gidigidsugu he crawled 
to a spot on the landward side of Sigabadara; from there he crawled to 
Sirpupu; and from Sirpupu he crawled to Pad. At Pad he saw that Dauan 
lay to the south-west — and he had travelled too far to the east. So he went 
back to Gidigidsugu, crawled to the canoe landing place, entered the sea, 
and began to swim towards the island at which he wanted to settle. 

It was a very long swim. Kogia became breathless from swimming so 
far. More than once on the way he excreted, the waste matter from his 
body turning to reefs. 

Eventually he reached Dauan. He landed at Gulkun and spent the night 
on the beach. But he did not sleep. "I must leave this open spot on the sand. 
If I stay here, people will find me and kill me," he worried. As soon as it 
was morning, he left the sand and crawled up Lalau Pad (a hill) where, 
before long, he found the cave which became his home. 

The seeds and seedlings which Kogia had brought from Garber were 
planted by him as he crawled from Gulkun to the cave on Lalau Pad. The 
sago grows a short distance from the beach at Gulkun, pud at Pudalnga, and 
the red-flowering hibiscus and urwaba at several places on Lalau Pad. 


Kogia looked north to Daudai from his cave on Lalau Pad one day. The 
air was so clear that the northern mainland seemed poised above the 
horizon somewhere between sea and sky. He thought of Meseda, his 
friend who lived at Sui, and was so overcome with longing for the sight 
of him that he decided to pay him a visit. 

Kogia crawled down to the beach at Gulkun and changed into his 
human form. He took his magic feather from his topi iana and threw it 
into the sea, whereupon the feather became a canoe (babagut); then, after 
obtaining a south-west wind by magical means, he set out on his journey. 

He sailed past many villages on the coast of Daudai, through Tora passage, 
and so, at last, reached Sui. 

The visit to Meseda was a long one, and, at some stage of it, Kogia 
obtained a wife, a woman named Sagaru. 

Kogia had a gun, a markai gagai, 2 which he kept secretly stored inside 
his wife, only taking it from its hiding place if he intended to go hunting. 
On those days, he used to tell Sagaru to open her mouth and, when she 
did so, would reach inside her throat with his hand and pull out the gun. 
Meseda hunted with gagai and taiak (bow and arrows). He did not know 
that Kogia had a markai gagai. 

Every morning, the two friends used to go and work in their gardens. 
Often they spent the afternoon hunting, when Kogia always shot many 
pigs and wallabies (which he always shared with Meseda), but Meseda was 
not so lucky. The latter found it hard to understand that Kogia never 
missed with his bow. And there was another thing that puzzled him: the 
sound of thunder (nur) that he heard from time to time where Kogia was 
hunting. He began to think that Kogia's bow must make this sound when 
it was fired. His own bow did not make the sound of thunder; therefore 
Kogia's bow must be different from his. He decided he would not go to 
his garden the following day, but stay at home and, while Kogia was 
away working, visit Sagaru. He would ask her what kind of bow Kogia 

This he did. "Sagaru," he said, "tell me the truth. What kind of bow does 
Kogia use? Is it a real bow made from bamboo (marap), or is it a markai 
bow?" "I don't know," the woman replied. "When Kogia fires his bow, 
it makes a sound like thunder, and I jump with fright. Tell me, what kind 
of bow is it that Kogia uses?" Meseda persisted. Sagaru was silent for a 
while, and then she said: "If I give you Kogia's markai bow, he will kill 

"So," thought Meseda, "Kogia has a markai bow, and Sagaru is looking 
after it for him." 

"Let me see it," Meseda ordered. "Come close," said Sagaru, and she 
stood with her mouth wide open. Meseda looked down her throat to the 
muzzle of Kogia's markai bow. 

"Let me use it," Meseda now begged. "No," said Sagaru, "for if you 
shoot with it, Kogia will hear, and there will be enmity between you and 
him." "Give me the markai bow," Meseda entreated. "I'll go away and 
fire it, and then bring it straight back. Kogia will still be my friend." For a 
while Sagaru would not yield, but in the end she took it out and gave it to 
her husband's friend. 

Kogia's body did not perspire while he was working in his garden that 
day. Besides, he felt lazy; so, before long, he lay down and rested — only 

2. Markai gagai, gun. (Markai, ghost, 
European; gagai, bow. Ghosts were 
believed to have pale skins; therefore, 
when the first Europeans arrived in 
Torres Strait, the people of Torres 
Strait believed them to be ghosts, 
because they had pale skins. There 
was, of course, no word for gun in 
either of the languages of Torres 
Strait. The newly-come markai woun- 
ded and killed with a weapon which 
he aimed and fired as a man used his 
bow to shoot arrows; so the term 
markai gagai — ghost bow — quickly 
evolved for the European's gun. 
Europeans are still called markai in 
West Torres Strait.) 


to be startled by the same kind of sound as his markai bow made when he 
fired it. He left for his home at once. 

Having obtained possession of Kogia's wonderful bow, Meseda hurried 
to a spot near Kogia's garden and shot a pig with it. Then he returned to 
Sagaru, gave her the markai bow, and went to his own home. There he 
cut up the pig. Afterwards he took some of the fresh meat to her. 

Kogia saw it as soon as he reached home. He threw down his gardening 
tools and said to Sagaru: "You didn't give my gagai to anyone, did you?" 
Sagaru denied having done so. "Tell the truth," Kogia ordered. "There is 
still blood on this meat. Who gave you this meat?" "Meseda gave it to 
me," Sagaru told him. "Did you give him the gagai?" pressed Kogia. 
"No, I did not," the woman lied. 

Before long, however, Kogia had the truth from Sagaru, and then he 
flew into a rage with both her and Meseda. "Why didn't you ask me first? 
Why didn't Meseda wait and ask me himself?" stormed Kogia. Meseda 
came along, and a fight started between the two who had been close 
friends. Eventually Meseda got the better of Kogia and threw him to the 
ground. "You lied when you said you were sad for the sight of me," 
Meseda told Kogia. "Leave Sui. Go back to Dauan." 

Kogia felt sick with shame. He told Sagaru to prepare for the journey 
to Dauan. When the canoe was loaded, Kogia asked Meseda to give him a 
north-east wind. Husband and wife left with it, sailed through Tora pas- 
sage and spent the night at Daru. 

After Kogia left Sui, Meseda began to feel sorry for what he had said 
and done, and the more he thought about Kogia's act of friendship in 
coming to visit him, the more he wished to make peace with Kogia. So, 
the day after Kogia's departure for Dauan, Meseda set out in his canoe and 
tried to catch up with his friend in order to ask him to return to Sui. 

As Kogia was preparing to leave Mabudauan, he saw a canoe approach- 
ing and knew it would be Meseda coming after him. But he did not go 
down to meet him. He let Meseda come to him, and when Meseda said, 
"I've come to take you back to Sui," Kogia replied: "You sent me away. 
I feel shame. Go back to Sui. I am going to Dauan. We are still friends, but 
nothing will change my mind about returning to Dauan. Let naigai (the 
north-east wind) take me the rest of the way home, and as soon as I arrive, 
I will stop it and send you a south-west wind to blow you to Sui." 

Naigai, the north-east wind, dropped when Kogia landed at Gulkun on 
Dauan, and zei, the south-west wind, began to blow. It blew day and 
night until Meseda reached Sui, when Meseda magically caused it stop, in 
that way letting Kogia know that he had arrived home safely. 

Kogia and Sagaru climbed Lalau Pad and settled down in Kogia's old 
home, the cave which he had found when he first came to Dauan. 



RAIDERS [Told by Simona Naiama at Dauan, 14 October 1968] 

Abai, a woman who lived in the village of Buli on the island of Dauan, 
received a baby pig from friends on the northern mainland, together with 
the message that she should look after it for them until it grew up. This she 
did, and the pig grew big and fat, so fat that it could not walk. She then 
told the people of Buli to kill it, and when that had been done, the pig 
was eaten. 

Now the pig had never belonged to Abai — she had merely been looking 
after it for the owners, her friends. Therefore, when they heard that their 
pig had been killed and eaten at Dauan, they were exceedingly angry and 
sent a message to Kiwai saying that they wanted the people of Dauan to be 
punished for their offence. The Kupamal, 1 more than willing to fight at 
Dauan, immediately got together their fighting gear — clubs, bows and 
arrows, and bamboo beheading-knives — and loaded their canoes for the 

They set out late in the afternoon and reached Augar Gizu at sunset. It 
was naigai time, the season of the north-east wind, and they had been 
helped on their way by a steady breeze. After dark, they sailed on. Naigai 
was still blowing, and it stayed with them the rest of the way to Dauan, 
where they arrived late that night. They landed at Sigain Kup, a small 
cove, armed themselves, and climbed up the rocks at the back of the beach 
to an enormous boulder which they tried to roll down into the sea. They 
believed that if they could do so they would have proof at the outset that 
their combined strength was sufficient to overcome the people of Dauan. 
They could not budge it. 

They went to the boulder-strewn area further back from the shore and, 
as it was not time to commence the attack on Buli, drew pictures with 
parma (ochre or red clay) on the undersurface of a huge rock while they 

The Kupamal set out for the village while it was still dark, advancing 
through scrub in two columns. The two leaders ordered some men to 
remain hidden in the bushes ; the rest they sent into the village where they 
were to disperse. Men were to steal into every house, and each man was to 
lie down beside a sleeping occupant. 

Just before daybreak, a Dauan woman got up and went to the bushes, 

1. The fighting men of Kiwai in the 
Fly River delta. 


2. Men from Gumu, by which name 
the island of Mabuiag was often 

3. The well which supplies the village 
with water today. 

to the spot where the Kupamau leaders were hiding. They shot arrows at 
her. "People of Dauan," she yelled, "there are enemies here! Either 
Gumulgal 2 or Kupamal— I don't know which." Wakened by her cries, 
the people of Dauan tried to dash from their houses, but every Kupam was 
ready to seize and club the victim he had marked, and few escaped. The 
Kupamal cut off the heads of the dead. 

One man who got away — a man named Kang — had been able to snatch 
up his bow and arrows, and he limped off, pretending to be a cripple. The 
Kupamal saw him when he reached a rock, near the monument which 
commemorates the "Coming of the Light" to Torres Strait, and urged one 
of their number, Kamumu, to go and kill him. "Kamum'! Mm! Mm!" 
they pointed. Kamumu did a frenzied dance and brandished his gabagaba 
at Kang. Kang shot an arrow into Kamumu's heart. 

Kang walked on a little further — to the site of the present-day Church. 
Another Kupam had gone out to kill him. Kang shot him through the 
heart also. He killed a third Kupam at very close range at Markai Katam. 3 
The arrow used by Kang for this shot was a bisikuik, one which had a 
man's head carved on the head and a poisoned tip — with this arrow a man 
never missed. But it was the last of Kang's arrows, so, after he had fired it, 
he began to run away up the steep hill behind Markai Katam. Halfway to 
the top, he turned round and yelled down at his enemies: "Kupamal, come 
and get me!" But none of the Kupamal took up the challenge, all giving 
up the chase and going back to rejoin their comrades. 

A Kupam who had had no part in the pursuit of Kang presently heard 
voices in the bushes behind the well at the back of the village and stole 
towards them. He saw a woman — Abai — and her children. 

Abai, hearing no sound of fighting for some time, and believing, there- 
fore, that the battle had ended, had gone to the spot at which she had 
prepared biu the day before and was feeding her children. The Kupam 
killed the small children and struck Abai a glancing blow with his gora- 
patutu, a small club. She dropped to the ground, unconscious. Her eldest 
son — a big boy — ran away and sat on top of the big rock called Kangan 
Gul (Kang's canoe). He looked down on his mother and the dead children, 
and then he ran without stopping to the top of the hill. 

The Kupam stood astride the body of Abai, sharpening his upi (bamboo 
beheading-knife) with his teeth, his eyes sometimes on the woman, some- 
times glancing around him. Consciousness returned to Abai. She looked 
up, saw the Kupam, and shut her eyes fast. She was lying on her back with 
arms outstretched. Now, always watching the Kupam through half- 
closed lids, she gradually moved her arms in to the middle of her body. 
The Kupam took his eyes off her — Abai brought her hands up, grabbed 
his genitals and wrenched savagely. He died of it. 


Above: The Kupamal "landed at Sigain Kup, a small cove, armed themselves, and 

climbed up the rocks at the back of the beach to an enormous boulder which they tried Below: Rock painting on the under- 
to roll down into the sea". surface of a boulder above Sigain Kup, 

the work of the Kupamal 

Rock painting on the under-surface of a 
boulder above Sigain Kup, the work of 
the Kupamal 

Those men of Dauan who had escaped hid on either side of the path 
through the scrub between Buli and Sigain Kup and stoned and killed 
many of the Kupamal as they were returning to their canoes with the 
strung heads of their victims. 

Some Kupamal reached their canoes. They sailed away with a south- 
west wind and came to Gawal Maza off Saibai — where the beacon is. 

Two men, Iamaru and Kaigas, who lived at the western end of Saibai 
Village, saw the Kupamau canoes and said: "Where have they come 
from? Let's go and find out." They put a canoe into the water and 
questioned the Kupamal. On being told that the Kupamal were on the 
way home from Dauan, Iamaru and Kaigas went to one of the canoes and 
looked under a mat. They recognized the heads. While Iamaru and Kaigas 
were killing the men in that canoe, the other canoes sailed away. 

These were seen at Mawat by Gamia, who went with other men to find 
out where they had come from. When Gamia and the men of Mawat saw 
the Dauan heads, they went from canoe to canoe and killed every one of 
the Kupamal except those in the single canoe which managed to escape. 

Thus, of all the canoes which sailed from Kiwai for the punitive raid on 
Dauan only one returned. 


Outrigger canoe riding at anchor at high tide, outside Saibai Villag 

stories from SAIBAI 

Mesea (or Melewal) Artist Kala Waia 



[Told by Wake Obar (for whom sam [cassowary] is augad) at Saibai, 
27 August 1967] 

The first man at Saibai was Mesea. He is usually called Melewal, because 
his home was a big baler shell of the kind called melewal. No one knows 
how he came to Saibai. The spot at which he lived bears his name: Mese- 
angagat (Mesea's place). From time to time he used to leave his shell and 
go for short walks. 

Nima and Poipoi, two brothers who lived at the eastern end of Saibai, 
once visited Melewal. After walking across the swamp they arrived at 
Bagunangulainga. 1 From there they walked a short distance west to 
Meseangagat where they saw lying on the ground pieces of bamboo such 
as are used in making bows and arrows. Each said to the other: "Someone 
must live here." So they called out: "Koimega (friend), are you here?" 

Melewal left his shell, walked towards them and greeted them. He asked 
them where they were going, and was told: "We are looking for our 
sister, Ereu. We intend to search for her along the coast of Daudai." 
Melewal said: "Where is your canoe?" Nima and Poipoi told him that 
their canoe, Binibin, was in their topi iana. 

The two brothers walked north and went down to the beach. While 
they were putting Binibin into the water, they saw a pair of mating turtles 
floating on top of the sea, so they named the spot at which they were 
standing Saiwalaugagat (mating turtle place). 

From Saiwalaugagat Nima and Poipoi crossed to Daudai and sailed 


[Told by Aniba Asa (for whom deibau [a wild yam] is augad) at 
Saibai, 25 August 1967] 

Melewal and Budia are called muruig, because they are "first people" : 
no one lived at Saibai before Melewal and Budia. Budia arrived earlier 
than Melewal, whom he saw crawl from the sea with an alup shell, a 
different kind of baler shell from melewal, on his back. Budia said to the 
newcomer: "Who are you? If you are a man, answer me." And, upon 
learning that the stranger was indeed a man, he invited him to live at 

1. The site of the present-day school. 

2. The canoe, Binibin, was a magic one. 
Nima and Poipoi had a half-coconut 
shell in their topi iana. When they 
wanted to travel by sea, they re- 
moved the half-coconut shell from 
the topi iana and stuck a magic feather 
in it; the shell then transformed itself 
into the canoe, Binibin. 


Before Melewal came, Budia lived in a hole in the ground. Now he 
said: "Henceforth I shall live on top of the ground. My home will be a 
bu shell. You are to live inside a baler shell." 

Both men used to leave their shells and go for walks, Melewal as a man, 
Budia as a willy-wagtail (seseku). 

Many years went by. 

Two men came to Ait: Nima and Poipoi. They and their sister, Ereu, 
walked to the other end of the island 3 and lived for several months at 
Magadaramkuik. 4 

One day Ereu asked permission of her brothers to go to the reef and 
catch crabs. When she failed to return, Nima and Poipoi left Magadaram- 
kuik and went to look for her. One of them had Binibin, a magic canoe, 
in his topi iana. 

3. The western end. They walked across the swamp towards the northern coast of Saibai, 

4. Not far from the well called Mag. coming out close to where Budia and Melewal lived. Expecting to find 

Budia (as willy-wagtail) 

Artist Kala Waia 


two men whom they had observed from a distance, they saw no one. 
"Does anyone live here?" called Nima and Poipoi. At that, Budia — who 
had changed into a willy-wagtail at the approach of the strangers — flew 
down from a tree and took human form. "I have a friend who lives in a 
baler shell," he told the brothers. Melewal now left his shell, and the four 
men exchanged greetings. 

Budia and Melewal asked Nima and Poipoi where they were going. 
"We are looking for our sister. Have you seen her?" the brothers said for 
answer. Budia and Melewal replied that they had not and invited Nima 
and Poipoi to spend the night with them, but the brothers refused to stay. 

Before they took their departure, Budia said to them: "After you go, 
I shall return to my former home under the ground, never to be seen again. 
Tell my people who come after me that I will leave two remembrances of 
myself for them : a hole which will sometimes appear in the ground at the 
spot where I live, 5 and the bird, seseku, into which I changed." 

5. Alfred Aniba said: "When Budia 
feels cold, his body shakes. That 
causes the hole in the ground to 
appear. The hole never appears when 
the ground is hard." 

Aniba Asa, one of the story-tellers 


Enosa Waigana, one of the story-tellers 



POIPOI [Told by Enosa Waigana at Saibai, 25 August 1967] 

For a while two brothers, Nima and Poipoi, and their sister, Ereu, lived 
at Magadaramkuik. 1 

One day Ereu obtained permission from her brothers to go and hunt 
for crabs on the reef, and while she was looking about for them she was 
noticed by a man named Gamia who was sailing back from Dauan to his 
home at Maiad, a village on the Papuan mainland which can be seen from 
the island, Daru. Gamia came and asked her to go with him; she agreed, 
and the pair then travelled together in the canoe, hugging the coast of 
Daudai as they journeyed east. 

Nima and Poipoi set out in search of their sister the morning after her 
failure to return from the reef In their topi iana they had Binibin, the half- 
coconut shell which was their magic canoe. When they reached the well, 
Mag, they drank from it before walking across the swamp to the sea. 
From Sarusak they saw a man walking about near the beach. 

They emerged from the swamp at Bagilgagat and learnt soon after- 
wards that the man whom they had seen was Mesea (or Melewal, because 
he lived inside a baler shell of the kind called melewal). Mesea greeted them 
and asked where they were going. Nima and Poipoi told him they were 
looking for their sister and would be sailing east along the coast of Daudai. 
"Where is your canoe?" Mesea asked. "Our canoe, Binibin, is in our topi 
iana" they replied. 

Nima and Poipoi spent the night with Mesea at his place (Meseangagat — 
gagat, place). Next morning they walked north for a short distance and, 
on looking at the sea, saw a pair of mating turtles (saiwal), so they named 
the spot at which they were standing, Saiwalaugagat. From here they 
went down to the beach and put Binibin into the water. Next they stuck 
a magic feather (warka) in Binibin, and so soon as the feather quivered in 
the wind, Binibin transformed itself into a canoe, and the feather became 
a sail. Nima and Poipoi stepped into the canoe and, after magically pro- 
curing a following wind, crossed to the mainland opposite. 

They reached Daudai at the mouth of a river and named the spot 
Warukuik (warn, turtle; kuik, head) because they saw a turtle's head appear 
above the surface of the water there, and when they saw a small sandy 
beach a little further on they gave it the name, Butulwarukuik (butu, sand, 

1. A grassy region at the western end 
of Saibai. 


2. Apparently a variety of mangrove. 

3. Got' I, stones; gizu, point. 

4. Koi, big; kupad, bay. 

5. Buiai, big pig. 

6. Sapural, flying-foxes; kawa, islet. 

7. Malu, sea, deep water. 

8. Kubakil, coughs, coughing. 

9. Muba, point. 

10. Kdisarkdisar, many; burn, arrow-dp 
made from the wood of that name ; 
pagai, strike or hit; zinga, [place] be- 
longing to — i.e. the place where 
many thoughts were directed to a 
single topic, as arrows would be shot 
at, and hit, a target. 

11. No meaning was obtainable for tere. 

12. I was unable to obtain an adequate 
translation for these w : ords. 

13. "String every bow!" That is to say: 
"It will take every man from every 
village at Sui to bring me down." 

sandy beach). Before long they saw a kuzub tree 2 in the sea outside the 
fringing mangroves, and round one of its branches a carpet snake {guiad), 
so that spot they called Guiadal Kawa (kawa, an islet). 

Nima and Poipoi continued to sail east, naming those places which 
interested them for one reason or another: Goil Gizu; 3 Koi Kupad; 4 
Buiai Gizu, 5 because when they looked east from Koi Kupad, they saw a 
big pig on the reef at that point; Sapural Kawa; 6 Mabudauan, a hill on 
the mainland, because as they passed it they chanced to look back at the 
high island, Dauan; Kawa, a small island in the mouth of a river; Malu 
Kawa, 7 a small island south of Kawa in a deep part of the sea; Kubakil 
Kawa, 8 because while they were talking about the single pandanus tree 
on this small island, one of the brothers coughed; Augarmuba, 9 a point 
of land on which there were good trees. 

East of Augarmuba, Poipoi began to feel that they should turn back, 
but Nima wanted to go on, and before long the two brothers expressed 
their thoughts to each other on the subject. They named the place at which 
this discussion was held Koisarkoisarburupagaizinga. 10 Afterwards Nima 
sailed on alone. 

The sun set as Nima passed the point of land which he named Tere 
Gizu. 11 He saw the lights of a village — Maiad, where his sister had gone 
with Gamia, though Nima was unaware of it — and, a little while after, 
sailed through a passage which he named Mabuadadakas. Not far from 
Sui, Nima put Binibin ashore and rested for two days. 

On the third day he saw a fishing canoe coming towards him from Sui 
and changed into a stork (kaiarpitu). The men in the canoe tried to kill the 
bird with their bows and arrows, and then Nima changed into his human 
form and shot those who had attacked him, killing all but one man, and 
him he wounded in the thigh. This man he sent back to Sui with the mes- 
sage that it would take more than one canoe to overcome Nima. 

The following day several canoes were sent from Sui to fight Nima. 
Nima saw them coming and, as on the previous day, changed into a stork 
at their approach. Once again, the men of Sui fired arrows at the bird, 
after which Nima fought them (in human form), uttering magic words 
as he sent his arrows towards his enemies: 

Panibabura, panibabura. 

Ju mari mare. Ju mari mare. 12 

He spared a man to take a message to Sui: "Gagaur poibamizl (String every 

bow!)" 13 

Every man from every village at Sui accepted the challenge. Nima 
changed into a pig before the fighting began, and into human form before 
he fought back. 


miles NIMA 

NU-. 29/l/67 


Outline copied from Department of Lands Map, Brisbane, 1966 

Nima and Poipoi with Binibin 
/Irfwi Kala Waia 

Atituku, atituku, 

Ju mart mare.Ju man mare, 

intoned Nima, as he fought the men of Sui, 

Panibabura , panibabura. 
Ju man mare. Ju mari mare. 

Then his bow broke, and he changed into a pig again. 

Some men wanted to kill the pig, but others said: "This pig, Agabe, 
is an augad (a sacred creature, a god). We should keep it and guard it well." 

Agabe was enclosed with canes and worshipped by men at Sui for a 
time. Later, however, there was a difference of opinion amongst the men, 
some saying that Agabe should be killed, others that Agabe should be set 
free. In the end, Agabe was taken out of his pen and sent inland. 


No one knows what happened to Poipoi after he parted company from 
Nima at Koisarkoisarburupagaizinga. Ereu married at Maiad and stayed 
there. Nima, as the pig, Agabe, became a source of strength for the men 
of Saibai. 

Before young men were permitted to fight in Daudai, they had to go 
through a ceremony which was held in the iut, the men's house from which 
all women were excluded. Beforehand, men went across to the mainland 
and charmed Agabe from the scrub by singing for it: 

(E) Agabe tumuruda. 
Nima Nima (da) 
Nima Nima (da) 
(Sa) (e). 

And hearing this song, Agabe came to them and allowed itself to be taken 
to Saibai, where it was killed in the iut and fed to the young men. After- 
wards they were given bows and arrows. In future, whenever there was 
fighting to be done in Daudai, they fought along with the other Saibai 



KADAL [Told by Enosa Waigana at Saibai, 27 August 1967] 

People lived at Ait. They were gardeners and hunters [of dugong]. 

Once there was a very beautiful girl at Ait whose name was Usalal. 
Her father was dead, and she lived with her mother, Ua. 

Usalal was so beautiful that every young man wanted her for a wife, 
but her mother and her mother's brother refused to allow her to marry, 
because they thought none of the young men was good enough for her. 

After a time Usalal's uncle became so angry with the young men who 
came courting her that he shot her in the belly with an arrow. 

So Ua built a shelter for her daughter outside the village where none of 
the young men could see her. The brother forbade his sister to visit her 
daughter, not even permitting her to take food and water to her. He told 
her that he would shoot her as well if she disobeyed him. 

Usalal lay inside the shelter, weak and helpless from pain and hunger. 
All she could do was look up at the sky. Often she called to her mother. 
She made a song which she used to sing over and over again: 

Jial (a) naki gar (a) (a) walmanu (a) (a) (waia) (a) 
Ama gar (a) ama ama (a) (ua) (a) (a) (waia) (a). 

(The clouds overhead pass this way and that. 
Mother! Mother! Alas! Alas!) 

Ua soon knew her daughter's song by heart. She could not bear to hear 
Usalal crying to her, and, despite what her brother had ordered, she 
decided to visit Usalal secretly at night and comfort her. 

Early one morning just before daybreak, Ua heard Usalal singing softly 
to herself. She crept unseen to the shelter, but when she went inside she 
saw that her daughter had died. "My good daughter," said Ua, "I did not 
know this would be my last visit to you." 


People continued to live at Ait. 

One year when no rain fell, there was scarcely any food or water, and 
there was nothing to eat but dugong, which the men hunted, and crabs, 
which the women found in the mangroves. 

Ait, an island at the south-eastern end of 
the Saibai swamp, was formerly the 
headquarters of one of two groups of 
people on Saibai whose sacred ancestor 
animal (augad) was kadal (crocodile). The 
other group lived at the north-western 
end of the island. 

No one has lived at Ait since the early 
years of London Missionary Society 
influence in Torres Strait when the entire 
population of Saibai was induced to go 
and live in one village. But the descen- 
dants of the people who used to live at 
Ait continue to identify themselves as 
members of Ait Kadal, thus distinguish- 
ing themselves from the descendants of 
the other group, who belong to Village 

The episodes related in "The Story of 
Ait Kadal" represent knowledge of their 
past inherited by the Ait Kadal people. 


1. Kaukuk also means "empty" 

After a time, the women became so weak that they died as they searched 
for crabs. They became black birds (kaukuk) 1 and sang to those women 
who still lived and came to the mangroves: 

(Waia) (e) (a) (ua) (e) (a) (bumere) (bumere) 
Maiau kaukuk (a) Sarkau kaukuk (a) 
(Waia) (e) (a) (ua) (e) (a) (bumere) (bumere) 
Kau-kau-ku-ku-ku ! 
(Kaukuk of Maia and Sark. 
Kau-kau-ku-ku-ku !) 

When the men and women went to their gardens, their digging sticks 
(pabu) on their shoulders, the spirits of the dead women accompanied 
them, too, flying round them as black birds and singing: 

(A) pabu patanu (a) patanu 
(A) pabu pabu patanu. 

(Dig with your digging sticks ! 
Dig, dig with your digging sticks!) 

Dugong meat kept some of the people alive until the rains came. 

When all the men were absent from 
Ait, and it was defenceless against a 
chance raiding party, the women 
removed to Taiwalnga for safety's 

Men of Kiwai. 

One day all the men of Ait went to hunt dugong. They caught many 
and brought them ashore at Saumangagat, their landing place on the 
southern coast. They left the dugong and the canoes here and walked to 
Ait, which they found deserted, their wives and children having gone to 
sleep at Taiwalnga a short distance away. 2 The men decided to spend the 
night at Ait and join their wives and children in the morning, all except 
Dogei who said: "I shall go to Taiwalnga and tell the women that we 
caught many dugong." 

That night some Kupamal 3 came across to Saibai. They landed at Alii, 
hid their canoes in the mangroves, and made their way through the 
swamp in the dark. They reached Taiwalnga and surrounded it, attacking 
at daybreak and killing everyone who had slept there that night except 
one woman and her daughter, who managed to escape and run off towards 
Ait. The Kupamal pursued them. 

The men of Ait woke to the sound of screaming women and clubs 
thudding against skulls. They ran for Taiwalnga, with the famous fighter, 
Waria, in the lead. He was the first to see the mother and daughter fleeing 
with Kupamal at their heels. 

Waria pretended to be lame and bent himself double, using this ruse to 
tie a small club (gorapatutu) to his ankle. He called to the woman, telling 
her to run straight to him. When she and her daughter were safe behind 


him, he straightened himself and shouted at the two Kupamal: "Here 
stands Waria!" The pair of them turned tail and fled, but Waria caught 
them almost at once and drove his club into their skulls. 

He ran on. When he was recognized by the rest of the Kupamal, they 
too fled back across the swamp into the mangroves, trying to reach their 
canoes at Alii and escape. He killed many of them. 

That morning, Papat, a Saibai man of lam, which is at the south- 
western end of the island, set out to visit a friend at Ait. When he had gone 
halfway, he heard of the raid by the Kupamal and determined to have a 
share of the heads. Though he ran as fast as he could, he did not, however, 
reach Alii until the only Kupamal to escape were drawing away in one 
of the canoes. 

Waria and Papat walked back through the mangroves to Ait, killing any 
Kupam whom they found trying to hide. The few whom they missed 
eventually died of hunger. 

For a long time afterwards the men of Ait discussed the raid by the 
Kupamal, at last coming to the conclusion that these warriors possessed 
some magical object from which they drew their strength. They decided 
to steal it, travelling to Kiwai in the canoes left by the Kupamal. 

At Kiwai they visited each village in turn, but learned nothing until 
they arrived at the last. There they captured a man and forced him to 
betray the location of the thing they sought. 

Two men from Ait, Zangaur and Kinaur, followed the captive to a 
thick patch of scrub. He led them by a secret path through otherwise 
impenetrable, thorn-covered vines to the clearing within. On the ground 
lay a stone which glowed. 

Zangaur and Kinaur took it back to the canoes where they told the 
waiting men that they had found the object of their search. All then 
returned to Saibai, beached their canoes at Alii, and strode triumphantly 
home across the swamps to Ait. 

They called their treasure Adibuia, for it shone by day and night. 
Adibuia was born of a beautiful girl of Kiwai, who, when her parents 
would not let her marry, had formed the habit of exposing her body to 
the moon and had become pregnant by it. Adibuia made the warriors of 
Ait invincible, and thereafter, before setting out to fight, they obtained 
strength from Adibuia by ritual observance. 5 No warrior of Ait who 
approached Adibuia in this manner died in a battle. 

For a long time Adibuia was kept at Ait; then, for greater secrecy, it was 
removed to Diwikal. 


4. Adibuia: adi, big, great; buia, light. 

5. At this point, Enosa interrupted his 
recitation to give the following 
explanation of the phrase "obtained 

Each time, a warrior smeared Adibuia 
with red clay (parma), anointed it with 
coconut oil (wakasu), and placed on it a 
garland (kedi) of vine. This done, he 
ordered the rest to put on their fighting 

One by one each advanced towards 
Adibuia, touched a hand to it, to his eyes, 
to his ears, so that the enemy should 
neither see nor hear him as he crawled 
towards them; touched his bow and his 
arrows to Adibuia, so that the string 
should not snap as he fought, and that the 
arrows would fly swift and true. 

The leader laid aside his bow and 
arrows and went again to Adibuia, bear- 
ing in his hand a circlet — like an armlet 
or anklet — made from dried grass. He put 
it on the ground, stepped inside it, and 
attempted to run round Adibuia keeping 
his feet within the circlet. Stumbling, 
falling, pushing himself to his feet, he 
completed the circle, thus ensuring that 
the enemy would stumble and fall during 
the forthcoming battle. 

Finally, Adibuia was asked to send its 
strength ahead to where they would meet 
the enemy. 


Lifu missionaries arrived at Saibai Village. They sent a man named 
Baira, who belonged to Village Kadal, to Ait to tell the people to leave 
their home in the swamp at the other end of the island and come and live 
with them. The people of Ait agreed to do this, but did not make the move 
because they feared they would own no land and they would lose their 

A year later Baira went again to Ait to call the people to Saibai Village, 
and this time they went. 

As they walked across the swamps, the men and women and children 
repeatedly looked back at Ait, sorrow in their hearts, tears in their eyes. 
A song broke from them: 

Lag gar nupaipa kunia wanan (a), 
Ngau gar mat (a) max (a) ulaipa, 
Ngau gar max (a) max (a) ulaipa. 

Lag gar nupaipa pusia taraipa. 
Ngai gar lagapa kunia taman (a). 
Ngai gar lagapa kunia taman (a). 

(My home, my place, 

I look back at it from a distance. 

It is left behind. I cry, I choke with grief. 

I cannot see it for the fog of my tears. 
We come this way, leaving behind for ever 
The home, the place to which we belong.) 

When they reached Saibai Village, Baira met them and took them to his 
house. Men of tabu augad (tabu, snake) went there to greet them. Later, 
Baira and the men of tabu augad gave them garden land and land where 
they might build homes. They also provided the young men with wives. 

On the first night at Saibai Village, one of the men from Ait could not 
sleep for the sound of the sea and went back to Ait. However, in the 
morning he returned to his people. 

The people of Ait brought Adibuia from Diwikal to Gasun Alupalnga 
to have it closer to them. Later, they moved it to a spot on the high ground 
in the swamp between the village and the well called Mag, naming this 
spot Akananiaizinga, 6 because they loved the stone like their own grand- 
mothers. Soon afterwards all the trees around Adibuia died, killed by its 
power, and land which had previously been covered with scrub was laid 

When Dr. McFarlane 7 visited Saibai, he saw a light shining in the 
swamp and asked what it was. When the people told him that it was 
Adibuia, he said that he would take it away with him. He did, and nothing 
is known of Adibuia since that day. 

6. Akananiaizinga: aka, granny; niai, 
stay, sit, rest; nga, place. Aka was the 
affectionate nickname by which Adi- 
buia was called after the people of 
Ait moved to Saibai Village. Adibuia 
("Aka") was a very heavy, round 
stone, about 10-11 inches in diameter. 

7. Rev. S. McFarlane, LL.D., of the 
London Missionary Society. Dr. 
McFarlane visited Torres Strait in 
1870 and returned in 1871 to embark 
on sixteen years of pioneer work in 
this region. He retired in 1887. 

WAKEMAB fTold by Nawia Elu at Saibai, 25 August 1967] 

Saibai is a long, narrow island hemmed 
by mangroves. The interior is largely 
swampland in which there are raised 
areas called kawal (islands — singular, 
kawa). Today the islands in the swamp 
are used as garden lands, but formerly 
people lived on many of them. 

The setting of this tale is the eastern 
end of Saibai. Of the places mentioned, 
Kagar is an area which includes forest 
land behind fringing mangroves; Maka- 
napai, Igelai, Bin, Pai, Augar, Somana- 
pai, and Ait are islands in the swamp. 

One day a man left his home at Makanapai in the swamp to go and fish 
on the reef. When he reached Kagar, he saw a man named Wakemab 
sitting on the ground in the shade of an almond tree. 

"Koimega (friend)," said the man from Makanapai, "are you the only 
person living at this place?" 

"Koimega," replied Wakemab, "no one lives here but me. Where are 
you going?" 

And when the man from Makanapai told Wakemab that he was going 
fishing, Wakemab wanted to know where he intended to sleep that night. 
"If I may, I should like to stay here with you and go home tomorrow," 
the man from Makanapai told Wakemab, and then he went off to fish. 

When he returned in the evening, Wakemab said: "It's too hot to sleep 
here tonight. We'll take some mats with us and find a cooler spot." And 
he led the way to the natural jetty of sand and dead coral that runs out 
into the sea from Kagar. Some distance from the shore, Wakemab put up 
two mat shelters, one for himself and one for the man from Makanapai. 
His own he made waterproof, unlike that for his guest. 

Presently the tide turned and water began to enter the tent of the man 
from Makanapai. "Koimega," he called to Wakemab, "I'm up to my 
ankles in water." "I, too," replied Wakemab. 

The water continued to rise. "Koimega," called the man from Makana- 
pai, "the water is up to my waist." "To mine also," replied Wakemab, 
and he began to beat his drum and sing, 

Wakemaba koi maba. 
Kui dara meuria meuria, 

a song which praised himself as a big man, and foretold the death of the 
other man. 

"Koimega," called the man from Makanapai, "the water is up to my 
chest." "To mine also," replied Wakemab, and he went on singing: 

Wakemaba koi maba. 
Kui dara meuria meuria. 

(I'm the better man of the two. 
The other man will be killed by me.) 


The partly submerged natural jetty of 
sand and dead coral running out from 
Kagar, at the eastern end of Saibai 

"Kbimega," called the man from Makanapai, "the water is up to my 
neck." "To mine also," replied Wakemab, who by this time was beating 
his drum faster and singing more loudly. 

'Koimega!" shouted the man from Makanapai, "I'm out of my depth. 
I'll drown!" 

Wakemab did not answer him. Instead, he beat his drum very fast and 

Wa nga Wakemaba? 

Ngau gula dakanu bubuama. 

Kuradara matamiza 

Kut box wunariz. 

Sam tete ngau gula. Oil 

(Who is Wakemab? 
My canoe is the best canoe. 
This man's end is upon him. 
My canoe is the winner. Oi !) 

When the tide began to ebb, Wakemab sang to a slower drum-beat: 

Wakemaba koi maba. 
Kui dara meuria meuria. 

And now he sang of himself as a man who had proved his superiority, 
because the other man was dead. 

At daybreak the jetty of sand and dead coral was dry. Wakemab took 
down his mat shelter and went to that of the man from Makanapai, 
removed the man's head with a bamboo knife and strung it through the 
neck and out through the mouth, threw the body into the sea, and walked 
in to the shore with the head. 

Not far from the almond tree under which Wakemab lived was a surka 
mound. 1 This was used by Wakemab as his sibui, the place where he stored 
bones, and in it he now put the head of the man from Makanapai. After- 
wards he returned to the almond tree, and before long was fast asleep. 

When he woke at the end of the day, he saw two men walking towards 
him from the direction of Makanapai. They greeted him as friend and 
asked if he lived alone at Kagar. "Koimega," replied Wakemab, "there is 
no one but me." And in answer to their question, "Have you seen our 
friend who came this way to fish yesterday?" Wakemab countered by 
asking which way they had come. The moment they told him that they 
had walked across the swamp, he said: "He went the other way — outside 
the mangroves, along the reef. Do you plan to return to Makanapai to- 
1. The nest of surka, the mound-build- night?" "We would rather stay here tonight and go home in the morning," 
ing jungle fowl or "scrub-hen". the men told him. 


Wakemab persuaded them to go with him to the jetty, saying that it 
was a cool and pleasant place for sleeping, and the following morning he 
buried their heads in his sibui. 

Several men arrived at Kagar from Makanapai that evening. In the 
morning, Wakemab added their heads to his sibui. 

And so it went on. Wakemab slept all day. At night he sang and beat 
his drum while his visitors drowned. And at last there were no men left at 

The women of Makanapai appealed to the people of Igelai, asking for 
their help in finding the men who had not returned to Makanapai. Before 
long the women of Igelai were asking help of the people at Bin, and then 
the women of Bin were asking for help from Pai, those of Pai from Augar, 
and those of Augar from Somanapai. Finally the women of Somanapai 
sent to Ait. 

"Ait bubuam! 2 (No one can vanquish Ait!)" Ait rallied to the call for 
help from its neighbour in the swamp. Three men went to Kagar from 
Ait. They did not come back. 

The following day eleven men of Ait set out for Kagar. One had yaws 
and could not keep up with the rest, so he was told to go home. The others 
made all haste by the coast route, and when they arrived at Kagar were 
told by Wakemab that the men who had visited him the previous day had 
returned to Ait by way of the swamp. They accepted Wakemab's invita- 
tion to spend the night with him. 

It was the man who had yaws who learnt what happened to men who 
went to Kagar. He did not return to Ait when sent back, but followed his 
ten companions at a distance and climbed an ubar tree near Wakemab's 
place. He saw the men of Ait accompany a fat, tall, bald-headed man out 
on to the bank that runs out from Kagar and, abandoning the ubar tree for 
a mangrove tree at the edge of the sea, listened all night long to a drum. 
And in the morning he saw Wakemab remove the mat shelters, cut off 
the heads of ten men of Ait, string them, and walk back to the shore. The 
man who had yaws slid down the mangrove tree and made off through the 
swamp as Wakemab strode back to the almond tree after visiting his 

The man who had yaws told what he had seen to the women at Makana- 
pai, Igelai, Bin, Pai, Augar, and Somanapai, and then he told the people 
at Ait. 

"Ait bubuam!" Every man at Ait armed himself with bow and arrows 
and gabagaba (club with circular stone head). Every man of Ait went to 

Wakemab lay with his head on the ground, asleep. He had killed so 
many and killed for so long that "the blood had come to his eyes" (kulka 

2. Bubuam, the white cowry shell (Ovula 
ovum Linne) which was a valuable 
commodity for purposes of barter. 
A single bubuam could be exchanged 
for a canoe in New Guinea. The ex- 
pression, "Ait bubuam!", conveys the 
idea of strength and wealth, the 
strength and wealth of the people of 
Ait. Although it is nearly a hundred 
years since the people of Ait aban- 
doned their island home in the Saibai 
swamp in response to repeated re- 
quests from early missionaries, "Ait 
bubuam!" is still the proud motto of 
those who have Ait blood: "No one 
can beat me." 


3. There is a rock (kuld) at each of the 
spots from which Wakemab looked 
back at the shore. 

Wakemab crawling out into the sea after 
being clubbed by two men of Ait 

Artist Kala Waia 

purkia amaiz). He was torpid from over-much killing. One of the men 
called him: "Wakemab! Wakemab!" Wakemab could scarcely open his 
eyes. "Wakemab! Koimegal Get up!" Wakemab forced himself to his feet. 
Then two men felled him with their clubs. 

Wakemab crawled away from the men of Ait on hands and knees 
through the mangroves to the sea. "You killed all the men from Makana- 
pai, Igelai, Bin, Pai, Augar, and Somanapai. You killed men from Ait," 
said the men who had come to avenge their dead. "You came too late. 
Those heads are in my sibui," Wakemab replied. He crawled on further, 
and then he looked back and said: "Where I go now, no man will ever 
come. I will kill every man who comes anywhere near me." 

He reached the sea at Magat, a little to the west of Mamag, the natural 
jetty of sand and dead coral to which he had lured so many men to their 
death, and crawled into the water. He crawled out into the sea, twice 
looking back at the men who stood watching him, 3 and after a long while 
reached deep water and was swept away by a current. 

It took him towards Malu Kawa, an island near the coast of Daudai. 
He began to feel cold. This place suited him. The water was very deep. 
Wakemab sank to the bottom of the sea and turned to stone, not far from 
the reef called Bur Maza. 

Men fear Wakemab. Logs that drift towards the place beneath which he 
lies on the bed of the sea are drawn deep down into the water by a swirling 
current and reappear a long way off. No one ever goes anywhere near 



DENGAM [Told by Timothy ("Susui") Akiba at Saibai, 

5 September 1967] 

Susui and his sister Dengam lived in a small village a little to the north of 
Kibul. 1 They left their home and followed a river downstream to where 
it entered the sea. 3 As they walked, they sometimes took stones from their 
topi iana and threw them into the water. The last of the stones was thrown 
into the mouth of the river. 

They crossed to Saibai and made a home for themselves in the scrub at 
the place called Tanamanamuid. Every day they went in search of food. 

Sometimes they went out at night, too, when, to help them see, they 
used each to take something from their mouths and throw it to the ground 
where it lit up. They afterwards retrieved and returned the objects to 
their mouths. The people living at Saibai Village always knew when 
Susui and Dengam were looking for food at night, because they saw lights 
appear and disappear at different spots around Tanamanamuid. 

From time to time, even now, lights are still seen at Tanamanamuid: 

Susui and Dengam, as the snakes into which they changed, still go 
searching for food at night. 

Susui and Dengam were the "first people" (muruig) of the group at 
Saibai for whom tabu (snake) is augad. 

Susui was bald. 

Nothing else is known about Susui and Dengam. 

1. On the Papuan mainland. 

2. Marked Pahoturi River on maps. 

3. Near Mabudauan. 

There are today a brother and sister who 
bear the names, these having "come 
down" to them. Susui told this story. 
His sister Dengam is married and lives at 
Dauan, the small, high island close to 



PUKAT [Told by Timothy Akiba at Saibai, 5 September 1967] 

had caught many, she came close to Karbai, who asked her if she had had 
any luck. That night, Pukat cooked the crabs for the evening meal. 

Pukat now began to desire her brother for husband, but, as he did not 
return her unnatural affection, the next time she caught crabs she kept the 
best ones for herself and gave the poorer ones to Karbai. She also gave him 
to eat mabut, a paste made from the pulp ofbiu, into which she had mixed 
some of her blood. 

Some days later, Karbai went to the swamp to look at the reflection of 
himself in the water. To his amazement he saw that his hair was now white. 
"I am still a young man," he said to himself. "My sister has done this to me. 
I will punish her for it." 

Karbai and Pukat continued to live together as brother and sister, out- 
wardly happy enough as they went about their daily work of obtaining 
food. But underneath, Karbai seethed with anger against the injury done 
him by his sister, and Pukat took satisfaction from the harm she had 
worked on her brother. 

One day Pukat went off to collect biu. When she had a basketful, she set 
about scraping them, and soaking and squeezing the pulp. 1 

Karbai took advantage of her absence to make a bird, using the wood 
of the tree called bum for its legs and beak, the spathe of nipa palm leaves 
for its wings, and the bark of the tree called tapi for its body. He hid it 
before his sister returned from her work. 

Henceforth, whenever Pukat was away from home during the day, 
Karbai went inside the bird which he had fashioned and practised flying. 
Upon her return, Pukat always called to her brother: "Are you here, 
Karbai?" And Karbai always replied: "I have been here the whole day 
long." This state of affairs continued until the day that Karbai could fly 

1. The place at which Pukat performed 
this task is called Pukatanabiusasi- 



The following morning Pukat announced that she was going to the reef 
for crabs. No sooner had she gone than Karbai entered the bird and flew 


into the air. He circled his home and then flew to the reef where he was 
seen alighting by Pukat at the moment she emerged from the mangroves. 
"What a lovely bird!" she thought. "If only I could catch it and give it to 
Karbai!" Karbai began to walk about looking for food, and Pukat ran 
towards him. Karbai, however, flew up at her approach and went to 
another spot on the reef. 

Pukat now set down her basket and again ran towards the beautiful 
bird; but again it flew away from her and alighted some distance away. 
This happened many times, Karbai always keeping beyond his sister's 
reach, tantalizing her and punishing her for her treatment of him in turning 
his hair white. Pukat called to her brother: "Karbai! Karbai! Come and 
help me catch this bird!" 

Not until Pukat was exhausted from the chase did Karbai come out of 
the bird and stand before his sister as a man. Then he said to her: "To 
whom are you calling? I, whom you thought a bird, am your brother 
Karbai. You mixed your blood with mabut which you gave to me to eat, 
by that means causing my hair to turn white." And Pukat, sorrowful for 
what she had done, confessed. 

Karbai said: "I am no longer your brother. I am about to fly to Daudai, 
from which place I shall never return. You will often see birds like the one 
I made on the reef outside the fringing mangroves of the mainland opposite. 
They will remind you of me." After that, he went back inside the bird 
form which he had created, circled in the air, and flew across the sea to 

SUI [Told for Kadam Waigana at Saibai, by her grand-daughter Marypa, 
8 September 1967] 

A man and woman left Saibai and made what was intended to be only a 
temporary home for themselves and their two children, a girl named Sui 
and a small boy, on the mainland opposite their island. Not long after 
their arrival in Daudai, however, the man died, and the woman and the 
children did not return to their island. 

The woman treated Sui very badly, denying her food and ordering her 
to eat her little brother's faeces. She used to say to her daughter before she 

Sui, a swamp bird — white, with black on 
its back — is augad for a small group of 
people on Saibai. The myth recorded 
here should be compared with the ver- 
sions obtained by Landtman (The Folk- 
Tales of the Kiwai Papuans (Helsingfors, 
1917), pp. 426-29). 


went to her garden, leaving the boy behind in his sister's care: "Look after 
him well, and when his bowels move, eat the excrement." And after she 
returned from gardening she always asked if Sui had obeyed her in- 
structions during the day. "Yes," replied Sui, when, in fact, she had buried 
the child's faeces. But the woman always found out that Sui lied to her, 
because immediately afterwards she called to the excrement of the little 
boy's bowels, "Where are you?", and it answered from wherever Sui had 
buried it: "Here I am." Even when Sui threw the excrement into the sea, 
it still answered the woman's call to it. 

At last Sui decided to run away from her mother and, to enable her to 
do this, she made a bird form, using the light wood of a buat tree for the 
body, koia for the wings, the wood of bum for the beak, guruad, a kind of 
pigweed, for the legs and feet, and timikapul, 1 shiny, hard, red seeds which 
have a black spot, for the eyes, and learned to fly in it. The bird was 
fashioned during her mother's absence and kept hidden in the bush until 
Sui had mastered the art of flying by daily practice. 

One day Sui's mother ordered her to dig up the excrement that she had 
buried and insisted that her daughter eat it, and then Sui ran to the bush, 
entered the bird, and flew back to her mother. Sui circled around her in 
the air. "Sui! Sui! Come and catch this bird for your brother!" called the 
mother. Sui flew lower. "Sui! Sui! Catch this bird!" the mother called 
again. For answer, Sui alighted on the ground, stepped out of the bird and 
said: "It was I whom you wanted for my brother. You have treated me 
shamefully, and I am going to leave you." With that Sui went back inside 
the bird she had made and flew away. 

She flew inland. Presently she looked down and saw a man sitting on the 
ground in his garden. She landed near him, came out of the bird, and 
walked to him when he signalled her to approach with his hands. This 
man, Murke, could not speak, because his lips were joined together, but 
he made it plain to Sui by signs that he was glad to see her and led her to 
the shelter in which he stored the fruits of his garden. He was rich in 
garden produce, and, when Sui told him how her mother had treated her, 
he made her sit down and placed a bunch of bananas on each side of her. 
After she had eaten her fill, he invited her to live with him. 

Sui lived happily with Murke for a long time, but she always wished 
that he could speak. One day he indicated that he wanted her to rid his 
head of lice. While he lay with his head in her lap, he fell asleep and began 
to snore. Sui stole away, found a very big shell (saimer)? and filled it with 

clay. After putting the shell on the fire to heat, she took a bamboo knife 

1. Timikapul, the seeds of the twining and cut ^ mQUth) and then $he dressed the WQUnd ^ hot , „ M 
plant, Abrus precatonus. ' 

2. A very big variety of edible shell-fish daughter, said Murke, plain and clear, what have you done to me? 
found in mangrove swamps. Sui cooked soft foods for him until his mouth healed. 


Sui Artist Kala Waia 

3. An old style of dancing in which the 
dancers carry bows and arrows and 
step backwards and forwards with 
bent knees. 

4. Sib pagadin, liver "spear thrust". 

An invitation arrived from an inland village some distance away for 
Murke and Sui to attend a gum, a party to which the people of many 
villages are bidden. Sui and Murke set out, taking bamboo pipes of water 
with them for the journey, and arrived at the host village after the dancing 
had begun. 

Murke immediately joined in the dancing (badara)? and Sui was in the 
act of lighting a bundle of palm leaves to show up the movements of the 
dancers, when she heard her mother's voice saying: "Sui! Is it you, Sui?" 
"Yes," replied Sui. "Your brother is here. Come home with us after the 
end of this dance," her mother ordered. Sui refused to go. 

The dancing went on all night. Just before daybreak, Murke, who felt 
very thirsty and hungry, slipped away and ran all the way home. He drank 
water and began to eat — and suddenly died, smitten by stabbing pain in 
the region of the liver. 4 

When the dancing ended, Sui looked round for Murke and could not 
see him. She asked all the dancers in turn if they knew where he was and 
finally received the answer: "He complained of feeling hungry and thirsty. 
He must have gone home." She found his tracks soon afterwards and, 
seeing them, felt sad that he had left without telling her. 

Sui saw him lying on the ground at their home and thought he was 
asleep. She sat down beside him, and then she saw ants running into his 
mouth and knew he was dead. Tears streamed from her eyes. "Murke," 
she sobbed, "you took me into your home and cared for me well. I was 
a child when I came to you, and now I am a young woman." 

After a while she went to Murke's garden and brought back fruit and 
vegetables. These she heaped in his saualag (the shelter in which garden 
produce is stored). Next she dragged Murke to the saualag, and then she 
set fire to it. Finally, when it was burning fiercely, she threw herself into 
the flames. 



[Told by Alfred Aniba at Saibai, 18 September 

Long ago there were a man, his wife, and their daughter living at Kagar. 
Every day the man went to the reef and shot fish. His wife and daughter 
used to search for crabs. 

One morning the husband sent his wife and daughter to dig yams. They 
had not returned by mid-day, so he went and looked for them. But 
though he searched the surrounding scrub and the mangroves and the 
beach — and even the reef at low water — he found no trace of them, and 
at last he returned to his home at Kagar. 

That night he was wakened from sleep by a voice which said: "Kasa- 
kuik! Kasakuik!" He was very puzzled. "My name is not Kasakuik," he 
said. "I am a whole man, with legs and arms and body. I am not kasa- 
kuik." 1 Afraid of the voice, he ran away and did not return to Kagar for 
several days. 

The first evening after he was back he saw a round, black object roll out 
of the scrub and go towards the beach. He climbed a tree and watched it, 
to discover that it was the head of a man. When he heard it say in a small 
voice: "Kasakuik! Kasakuik!" he slid down to the ground and took to 
his heels, abandoning his home at Kagar for ever. 

Kasakuik, the man who was "only head", was now alone at Kagar. 
His home was a surka mound. Every evening he left it and rolled to Kagar 

Then one day several women and girls walked from Ait to Kagar Point 
to fish. It was late afternoon when they came in from the reef, so they 
decided to spend the night at Kagar. They made a fire and lay down beside 
it to sleep. 

In the middle of the night, Kagargud, one of the women, woke to feel 
one of her breasts being sucked. She put her hand inside her bodice and 
felt a head — but only a head! She screamed, tore the head from her, 
jumped up, found a stick, and began to beat it. Soon the other women and 
the girls were belabouring the head with sticks as well. 

Just before life departed from Kasakuik he said: "Isu! Isu! (Too late! 
Too late!) I drank from one of you." 

The women and the girls beat the head until it lay on the ground in 
pieces. 1. Kasa, only; kuik, head. 


KONGASAU [Told by Timothy Akiba at Saibai, 27 August 


This story belongs to the group of The men of Uruil Kawa, a village in the swamps of Saibai, had a favourite 

people at Saibai for whom tabu (snake) is 1 i • i .1 j j -i 1 ~- u- u „• a 

au ^ d sport which they practised daily. It was a simple game which consisted 

only of throwing sticks at a target, such as a log. 

Before they began to play one day, the men decided that the player who 
threw best should receive the girl, Adasakalaig, for wife. She was a prize 
worth winning, being so beautiful that she did no work and sat all day 
long on a fine mat. 2 

There was one man who had said nothing during the discussion of 
Adasakalaig. This man, Kongasau, did not enter the competition and 
presently slipped away, his going unnoticed by everyone except Adasaka- 
laig. He spent two days at Maringulainga 3 and then he returned to Uruil 
Kawa, arriving after the men had commenced target play. Again he 
stayed out of the game, merely standing to one side of the men and 
watching them. He spoke to no one. 

Adasakalaig went to him and said: "Why did you go away? When the 
men missed you, they searched for you for a long time." 

Kongasau answered: "I heard the men decide to compete for you as 
prize for their day's sport." 

Adasakalaig begged Kongasau to take her with him to Saibai Village. 
"Wait until the men are intent on their game. We could leave then, and 
no one would notice our going. Take me to Saibai Village," she pleaded. 
Adasakalaig and Kongasau left Uruil Kawa as the sun was setting. 

As they crossed the swamp that night they played hide-and-seek. 
Sometimes Kongasau hid from the girl, when she called to him and 
looked for him in the reeds and bushes until she found him. Sometimes it 
was she who hid from Kongasau. She did not know that the man whom 
she had chosen to be her husband was a ghost (mari). 

Just before they reached Maringulainga, Kongasau disappeared, and, try 
as she might, Adasakalaig could not find him. "Kongasau! Kongasau!" she 

1. Kerapatam sagul, target play. called, many times. "Kongasau, where are you? It is nearly daylight." The 

2. Wakuniainvawakaz, a very beautiful • -i . 1 

. , / , . . air was silent and still. 

voung girl {waku, mat; mat, stay, sit; 

ngawakaz, girl). Then Adasakalaig heard a whistling sound. It was repeated three times. 

3. Near Saibai Village. She ran towards it — and saw a snake slithering away into the scrub, a 


yellow-bellied black snake with a thin red stripe from the tip of its head 
to the tip of its tail. 4 Kongasau, the ghost whom she had believed to be a 
man, had changed into a snake. 

Adasakalaig searched for Kongasau until day broke. But she could not 
find him, and she never saw him again. 

Artist Kala Waia 


4. This venomous snake is greatly feared 
at Saibai today. 

WAMALADI [Told by Gamia Asse (for whom umai [dog] is 

augad) at Saibai, 5 September 1967] 

Wamaladi was a man. He lived with his wife and daughter at Maian- 
mulainga. Every day the three of them used to go and work in Wamaladi's 
garden at Waum. 

When his daughter grew up, Wamaladi was stirred by desire for her 
body and, one day while his wife was temporarily absent from Waum, he 
said to the girl: "If you should see the leaf of a banana tree struck by an 
arrow, find out the direction from which it travelled — whether from the 
north, or from the south, or the west — and then walk straight to the man 
who shot it from his bow. First ask him his name, then take him as hus- 

Wamaladi left his daughter and went to Markaigagat where he exam- 
ined his reflection in a pool of water. He was not a handsome man. Now, 
in order to make himself attractive to his daughter and, at the same time, 
conceal his identity from her, he altered the shape of his nose by fixing 
pieces of wax on it. Then he hurried back to Waum and shot an arrow 
at a banana leaf close to his daughter. She saw it and, obedient to her father's 
instructions, walked straight to the man who had fired the arrow. 

Wamaladi bade her sit at the foot of a banana tree, and then he sat 
down beside her. Rain began to fall, so he stood up in order to shelter her 
from it with his body. When the rain stopped, he sat down again. Showers 
of rain continued to fall, and, at every one, he stood up to keep her dry. 
By doing this, however, he himself became thoroughly wetted, and water 
began to lift the wax on his nose. Presently a piece of wax fell off. The girl 
noticed it, but paid it no heed. Wamaladi picked it up and replaced it on 
his nose. 

The rain did not ease, and, despite the man's efforts to shield his daughter 
from it, before long she was thoroughly drenched. Suddenly all the wax 
with which he had remodelled his nose fell off in one piece and dropped 
between the girl's legs, and she looked up at the face above her. "Father! 
It's you, father!" she cried. "Go away from me!" yelled Wamaladi. And 
he fled. 

At this moment the mother arrived on the scene and, seeing a man 
running away from her daughter, asked who he was. "That is father," the 
girl said. 


Wamaladi ran all the way home to Maianmulainga ; but he did not stay 
there because of the shame he felt. He went into the mangroves and lived 
there for some time all by himself. 

One day he dressed himself as an old woman, tying a skirt round his 
waist and donning a wig (dum) which gave him the appearance of having 
a big head of hair. Skirt and wig he made from the teased fibre of the trunk 
of a banana tree. Thus disguised, he set out for Waum, before he reached 
the area, shaking his legs in aboriginal fashion, performing in turn towards 
east, west, south, and north. 

Women who were working at Waum that day saw Wamaladi approach- 
ing and called out: "Granny, come here! We will spread a good mat for 
you to sit on." Wamaladi replied, "I know the custom, but I prefer to sit 
by myself at a little distance from you," because he was afraid of being 
recognized if he came close to the women. Presently he said: "You have 
worked so hard at gardening and fishing today that you will be very tired 
tonight. Don't bother to cover your knees with your skirts when you lie 
down to sleep." The women did as Wamaladi had bid them, and during 
the night he went to every one of them. When he heard the first twitter 
of the birds he left Waum. It was nearly daybreak. 

Wamaladi visited many places — Metalap, Koiwan, Darkam, Ubu, 
Kaninab, and Tara. At each he was accepted during the day as an old 
woman; at each he ravished the women while they slept at night. 

He went to Tuian, but there he learned that all the men from Waum 
to Tara had joined in one big party and were hunting for him. So he 
hurried to Maianmulainga and, after removing his skirt and his wig, 
changed into a crow. The men who had come armed with bows and 
arrows and clubs to kill Wamaladi reached Maianmulainga in time to see 
him fly north towards Daudai. They felt sorrow for him. 



[Told by Alfred Aniba at Saibai, 
6 October 1968] 

At Waum on the island of Saibai there once lived a dwarf-sized man 
named Metarawai. Wherever he went he always took his bow and arrows, 
because he liked to practise shooting at targets as he walked along. 

In order to reach his garden at Metalap, Metarawai had to walk across a 
stretch of flat ground. In some places the grass grew short and spindly, in 
others it grew tall and thick. He avoided the latter, because he would not 
have been able to see over the top of the long grass, nor would he have had 
room to draw his bow. 

A very small man, he used a very small bow, and the arrows that he shot 
did not travel far. It occurred to him one day that if he had a longer bow 
his arrows would travel much further. 

So he made a very long bow, one out of all proportion to his height — 
only to find that he could not bring it into the vertical position for firing 
ahead. The only way he could use the new bow was to shoot arrows 
straight up at the sky, and when he did that the arrows fell to earth at his 

The grass still grows in short, spindly tufts along the way that Metarawai 
walked from Waum to Metalap and back. 

ROA KABUWAM [Told by Aniba Asa at Saibai, 

28 August 1967] 

Roa was an expert hunter. He was also a generous provider, sharing his 
kill with the people of Saibai Village at the north-western end of the island 
and the people of Ait at the eastern end of the swamp. As proof of his skill 
as a hunter, the sibui (place where bones, human or animal, are heaped) on 
which he saved the bones of the dugong and turtle he speared grew to be 
taller than himself. Its height was the measure of his generosity. 


Roa Kabuwam, the people called him, likening him to the pellets of 
beeswax (warn) stuck to the centre (kabu, chest) of the skin at the end of a 
drum. As the wax gives sweetness to the sound of the drum, so Roa gave 
happiness to the people with the food he brought to their midst. 

Roa knew where to hunt, the times to hunt, how to make harpoon and 
spear and rope, how to erect the platform from which to spear dugong. 
He knew everything about hunting that had been learnt and handed down 
by his ancestors. Some men lived to fight. Roa lived to hunt and provide 
food for the people. He loved his wap (harpoon-spear) as he loved his 

When he returned from hunting, he scraped the meat from a dry coco- 
nut, squeezed the milk from it, and rubbed his wap with it. Roa's wap, 
which he had made himself from heavy tulu wood, became black and 
beautiful with this care. If he was not out hunting it stood near his sibui 
at Budiangud, close to his home. It was more than a hunting weapon. It 
was the symbol of a way of life. 

When other men were hunting, they shouted as they jumped from the 
dugong platform to harpoon the animal that had returned to graze. They 
needed the help of the men who waited silently some distance away in a 
canoe, either to bring the dugong ashore, or to disentangle them from the 
rope that was attached at one end to the harpoon, at the other to the plat- 

Not so Roa. When Roa hunted he did all the work himself. The men 
slept in the canoe until morning. Some nights he harpooned as many as 
six or seven dugong. 

It was the same with turtle. Roa was so strong, so able, that he needed 
no help from anyone. 

The people did not mind if Roa came ashore while he was hunting 
and quenched his thirst with coconuts from their gardens. Seeing the dry 
husks on the ground they smiled and said: "Ah, Roa has been here." 

Roa was a big man with bulging muscles. The hair on his head grew 
long, his body was hairy. His fingers were covered with warts. His finger- 
nails were long, like eagle's talons. He had a wife named Badi, and sons. 

The years went by, his name continually on everyone's lips. Roa, Roa 
Kabuwam, Roa, Roa . . . There was far too much talk of Roa. 

One day Roa went by canoe to the reef called Zangal Maza to look for 
places where dugong had grazed, taking with him as crew his sons and 
some other men. It was a day when big waves broke over the reef. 

As he was poling his canoe over Zangal Maza, Roa saw a crayfish. 
Immediately he jumped into the water and followed it down to a hole in 
a rock. He caught hold of it and tried to return to the surface of the water, 
but was prevented from doing so by a big wave. Again and again he tried 


to escape from the hole, but it was always the same: every time he was 
kept under by a big wave. He was trapped. Roa knew then that someone 
was using maid (sorcery) against him. 

Roa thought of his sons and made a desperate effort. This time he freed 
himself and reached the surface, the crayfish still grasped in his hand. 

He climbed into the canoe and embraced his sons. He was embraced by 
the rest of the crew after they had heard his story. 

That day Roa speared three dugong before returning to Budiangud. 

Although Roa now knew that the sorcerers (maidalgal) were his enemies, 
he went on as before, hunting, fishing, and sharing with the people of 
Saibai Village and Ait. 

One night when the moon was full, Roa went pig-hunting. Before long 
he saw a mob. Dropping to his hands and his knees, he began to crawl 
towards them, his bow in his left hand, his arrows in the right. At the 
moment of his releasing an arrow, six sorcerers appeared, shouting at the 
pigs and calling his name. 

Roa said: "Why have you come? Are you going to kill me?" 

"Yes," said the sorcerers. 

One of them left the group and walked towards Roa. When he was 
about to bring down his club on Roa's head, Roa shot him in the thigh 
with an arrow. 

Another sorcerer stepped forward. This man, too, Roa shot in the 
thigh. The rest fled. 

Roa did no more hunting that night; instead, he returned to Saibai 
Village and told the women: "Should any man come home tonight and 
tell you he has a splinter of mangrove in his leg, he will lie. Men tried to 
kill me, and I shot them, not to kill, because I am Roa Kabuwam and do 
not kill men, but to make them afraid." 

At last Roa began to grow old. He hunted less. Often he was quite 
content to stay at home. 

One morning he decided to go to the garden called Adabadau Kupad. As 
he walked through the grass, two deadly black snakes slid towards him, one 
from the left, one from the right. 

Roa might have made a move to save his life, but he had had enough of 
fighting the sorcerers. "It is better," he thought, "that I let them have their 
way. If I continue to thwart them in their attempts to kill me, they may 
turn their attention to my wife and family. It is better this way," and he 
stood perfectly still, allowing the snakes to sink their fangs in his ankles. 

His people buried him, leaving his fingers and toes exposed until the 
flesh had rotted sufficiently to allow the nails to be easily removed. These 
they kept, precious relics of Roa the hunter, Roa Kabuwam, whose 
generosity, for a time, had sweetened the lives of all at Saibai. 



[Told by Nawia Elu, great-grandson of Baira, 
at Saibai, 5 September 1967] 

Baira lived at Saibai Village. His augad was kadal (crocodile). He was 

Nadai also lived at Saibai Village. His augad was samu (cassowary). He 
had four wives, of whom Aukam was first. 

One day, after Baira had gone out on the reef in his canoe to fish, 
Aukam, who desired him, managed to escape from Nadai and run away. 
She made her way past Aibuker 1 to the mangroves and climbed a mangrove 
tree growing in the water at the edge of the sea at Urakaral Iabu. From it 
she watched Baira, who was fishing at Megan Iabu, and, when he put 
about to come ashore, she climbed down and signalled to him by splashing 
up water. Then she climbed up the mangrove tree again and waited for 
him to come to her. 

Now Baira had no idea who wanted to see him, but he poled his canoe 
to the spot at which the signal had been made. Looking up, he saw Aukam. 
"What do you want?" he asked. "I have come for you," she replied. "Get 
into my canoe," he told her. 

The two poled to the small landing-place, Gopeturumau Gagat, 2 left the 
canoe there and walked inland, taking with them all the fish which Baira 
had caught that day. They passed Diwikal and came to Warmau Kupad, 
where the people of tabu (snake) augad were living at that time. Both Baira 
and the men of tabu advised Aukam to return to Nadai, but this she 
would not do. 

Baira now sent a message to the groups of people living at Ait — to 
kadal (crocodile) and baidam (shark) and tabu (snake) — calling them to fight 
with him and his men against Nadai who would most certainly do battle 
for Aukam : not only was Aukam Nadai's first wife, but also she was the 
mother of his son, Alis. Nadai sent back word that he would fight on a 
certain day. 

On the day appointed by Nadai, the kadal men of Ait went early to the 
magic stone, Adibuia, 3 and obtained strength from it. At the conclusion 
of the ceremony, each man placed on his head a wreath woven from 
pandanus leaves turned white by heat, outward symbol of the invincible 
power derived by him from Adibuia. Seeing the kadal men of Ait thus 
adorned, Nadai, arriving later in the day, ordered his men to return home 

1. A garden area. 

2. Close to Gopeturumau Kasa. 

3. The history of Adibuia is given in the 
story, "Ait Kadal". Adibuia was 
lodged at Diwikal at the time when 
Baira obtained Aukam for wife. 


without firing a single arrow or dealing a single blow. Some were un- 
willing to yield without fighting. "Sakanu mangalei (The arrows will 
pierce our bodies)," said Nadai, and he led them back to Saibai Village 
after telling Baira that he might keep Aukam. 

That is how Baira got a wife. Three children were born to them: two 
sons, Nawia and Kebesu, and a daughter, Mapu. 

/V KjlJ U K U IJ [Told by Nawia Elu, great-grandson of Baira, 

at Saibai, 29 August 1967] 

Formerly it was the custom for men of Saibai Village to sail across to 
mainland Papua (Daudai) whenever they wanted the flesh of kangaroo and 
pig to eat. They used to land at Warukuik and then walk inland to a big 
swamp, Sirpupu, and hunt. 

On one of these hunting expeditions a man named Baira had no luck 
at all. By late afternoon, each of the other members of the party had shot 
as many as four or five animals. Baira had killed none. Feeling tired, he 
decided to have a short rest and smoke a pipe of tobacco. Afterwards, 
when he resumed hunting, he came to a place where tall grass grew and 
saw, to one side of it, an old man sitting on the ground eating raw kangaroo 
meat. The old man was Agburug. 

Agburug invited Baira to join him and gave him some meat to eat. He 
asked Baira his name and where he lived. He told Baira that he would go 
to Saibai that night and visit him at his home. 

Baira returned to Saibai empty-handed that day, and at sunset was stand- 
ing outside his house waiting for Agburug, the old man whom he had met 
while hunting. He had no idea that Agburug was both man and snake and 
the man was usually concealed within the snake. Therefore, when Baira 
saw a snake crawling towards him, he was very frightened. Agburug said: 
"Do not be afraid. I am a friend who will do you no harm." And im- 
mediately afterwards he emerged from his snake form to reveal himself as 
the man whom Baira knew. The two men talked. 

Agburg told Baira that he would like to live at Saibai. "Show me a place 
where I may settle," he said. So Baira pointed inland to his garden place at 
Koiwan. "On the northern side of Koiwan there is a patch of scrub, 
Sarabilwang. Live there. I will visit you every time I go and garden," he 
told his new friend. Presently Agburug changed back to his snake form and 


Artist Kala Waia 

went to his new home, where, in future, Baira always called on him both 
before and after he gardened. 

Baira often warned Agburug not to leave Sarabilwang. "There are 
many men on Saibai. If any one of them were to see you, he would kill 
you," he used to admonish his friend. 

For a long while Agburug never left the area of scrubland which was 
his home and searched for food only at night. But the time came when 
there was nothing left to eat at Sarabilwang, so he had to go further 
afield in order to appease his hunger. Eventually he had to travel so far to 
obtain a meal that he could not reach home before daylight. 

One night Agburug crawled by way of the well called Met and the 
garden places, Kaninab and Tara, to the garden place, Tuian. Day broke 
and he was still at Tuian. On the way home he felt so tired that he decided 
to rest. He fell fast asleep, his head inside a bush, his body stretched out 
across the path which led from Saibai Village to Tuian, to be found by a 


1. Jangaur belonged to Ait kadal (croco- 
dile), Baira to Saibai Village kadal. 
Jangaur was an important kinsman 
of Baira, but he was not Baira's actual 

big, baldheaded man named Jangaur who was walking to his garden at 
Tuian. Jangaur struck the snake a heavy blow with the stick which he 
carried. Badly wounded, Agburug slithered away into the grass and called 
back: "You hurt my leg. One day I will have my revenge on you." 

Agburug managed to reach Sarabilwang, but by that time he was very 
sick. After dark he went to the mainland opposite Saibai. He stayed there 
for two moons, until he was fully recovered, before returning to Sara- 

Baira saw him the following day when he came to garden. "Where have 
you been?" he asked. "I searched for you for a long time." Agburug told 
him all that had happened and, at the end of his story, added: "I must 
have my revenge. I am going to harm Jangaur." "On no account are you 
to kill Jangaur," said Baira, "for he is my father. 1 Furthermore, you must 
let him know why you punish him." 

Next morning Agburug went to the spot at which he had been injured 
by Jangaur and lay across the path between Saibai Village and Tuian. This 
time he did not sleep ; instead, he kept a careful watch for Jangaur, whom 
he presently saw approaching — Jangaur was on the way to his garden at 
Tuian. He waited very still until Jangaur was almost upon him — and then 
he struck, biting his enemy not badly, but hard enough to cause him to fall 
to the ground half-dead. Agburug returned to Sarabilwang. 

Jangaur lay unconscious until late afternoon when he recovered suffici- 
ently to be able to walk home. He felt very sick that night. Two months 
later he was still so sick that he had wasted away to skin and bone. 

Throughout Jangaur's illness, Baira often begged Agburug to permit 
Jangaur to recover, but Agburug always refused, saying that Jangaur 
would not die. 

The day came when Baira judged Jangaur to be at the point of death, 
for his lips were the colour of the grey fruit of the aubau tree. Again Baira 
interceded for Jangaur, and this time Agburug said: "I will visit Jangaur 
tonight. He must be alone, and his house must be dark." Baira went to 
Jangaur's relatives, told them why Jangaur had been sick for so long and 
passed on Agburug's instructions. 

Agburug kept his promise. That night, as snake, he entered Jangaur's 
house and, coiling himself around Jangaur's body, squeezed the feeble, 
pain-racked man repeatedly, brought his head close to Jangaur's face, and 
licked Jangaur all over from head to toe. Then Agburug went back to 
Sarabilwang. In the morning Jangaur felt perfectly well. 

Eventually Baira died. Agburug waited in vain for his friend to visit 
him. Lonely, believing himself to have been forsaken by Baira, in the end 
Agburug departed from Saibai and returned to Daudai where he made 
his home at Dabu. 



[Told by Enosa Waigana (Ait kadal) and Aniba Asa (deibau) 
at Saibai, 28 August 1967] 

One day Maigi set out from his home at Ait to hunt dugong. He was 
successful and shared his kill with the people of his village. In the dis- 
tribution of meat, however, one man, Piapi, received none. This was not 
intentional on Maigi's part — one of the other men may, perhaps, have 
forgotten to hand over the cut which was Piapi's portion — but Piapi chose 
to regard it as a personal slight and began to stir up trouble against Maigi. 
Kamana, Maigi's sister, learned what he was doing and told her brother. 

Maigi became extremely angry when he heard this. "Piapi has always 
had a portion of every dugong I have killed in the past, and I am willing 
to share in like manner in the future. It is not true that I deliberately left 
him out on this occasion," he said. And he went to his brothers and told 
them that they were to help him fight Piapi. 

Now Maigi's brothers thought that he wanted Piapi killed, whereas, in 
fact, Maigi meant no more than that they should wrestle with him and 
give him a sound thrashing. Piapi had gone to the reef to spear fish, and 
Maigi planned to catch him as he was on his way home to Ait. Maigi's 
brothers accompanied him to Somanapai as he asked and, when Piapi came 
along, killed him with their gabagaba. 

Realizing that his brothers had believed themselves to be obeying his 
wishes, Maigi now took full responsibility for the death of Piapi. He told 
them to take Piapi's body to Saumangagat and cover it with leaves. They 
were then to return to Ait where they would say nothing about what had 
happened. He would give the news himself. 

When Maigi arrived at Ait several hours later, his body was smeared 
with clay, and he held in his mouth a young waba plant which he had torn 
from the ground by its roots, signs that he had killed an important man. 
Seeing Maigi, the people were immediately afraid and looked about to see 
who was missing. When they learned that Piapi had not returned from 
fishing they understood that it was Piapi whom Maigi had killed, and 
fighting began between Maigi's people on the one hand — those who had 
kadal (crocodile) as augad — and Piapi's people on the other, those who had 
baidam (shark) as augad. 

1. Alfred Aniba said: "A little stream 
divides kadal and baidam." 


2. The western end. 

3. Kusei's grandson, Nawia Elu, was 
about 65 years of age in 1967. 

4. This tree has two names. While it 
is young it is called jangau (or zan- 
gau) ; when it grows old it develops 
a hollow trunk and is called aubub. 

When it came to the end of the story, 
Aniba's account differed from Enosa's. 

Aniba said that Maigi sent word to 
Piapi's people at Ait and Saibai Village, 
telling them to come and kill him. 
Gemetu and Monga, sons of Maigi's 
sister, went ahead of the rest of the men 
from Saibai Village and hid near Tara. 
They stood between Maigi and those 
who had come to kill him, but Maigi told 
them the story behind Piapi's death and 
forbade them to intervene in future. 
Despite this, Gemetu and Monga defend- 
ed Maigi on a second occasion. It was 

Afterwards, Maigi told his brothers that he was leaving Ait and going to 
the opposite end 2 of the island to live. He, his wife, Sagaro, and their son, 
Kusei, 3 made their home at Tara, a place where bamboos suitable for 
making bows and arrows grew. They stayed there for many months, 
Sagaro and Kusei going into the mangroves at night and sleeping inside the 
hollow trunk of an aubub tree. 4 

Oppressed by the certainty that fighting between his people and Piapi's 
would never end while he himself lived, Maigi in the end sent word to the 
men of kadal and baidam at Saibai Village to come and kill him. When he 
saw them coming, he spread coconut leaves and banana leaves on the 
ground and lay on top of them, face downwards, pretending sleep. Baira 
(kadal augad) struck him first; the men of baidam augad followed, killing him 
with their gabagaba. It had been Maigi's wish that his brothers bury him at 
Augar, and this they did. 

not until men came from Ait and Saibai 
Village the third time that Maigi was 
clubbed to death. 

Aniba also said that Maigi had told his 
brothers to take his head to Augar and 
place it at the foot of the waba plant which 
grew there. All who saw it would be 

reminded of the reason why he, Maigi, 
had submitted to being killed: that the 
fighting between kadal and baidam should 

Aniba was eighty-five years old in 
1967. He said that he had seen Maigi's 
head at Augar when he was a boy. 


[Told by Timothy Akiba at Saibai, 27 August 1967] 

1. Mag is like a small dam. There is a 
well similar to Mag at Boigu (where 
it is known as "Mai"), and another at 
Waraber (Sue Island). Mag is still the 
principal source of water for Saibai 
Village, with which it has recently 
been connected by pipeline. 

2. Timothy Akiba who told this story 
used madubal (madub, singular) for 
"spirits who live in wells". Another 
informant at Saibai preferred "ima- 
garal" to "madubal" for such spirits, 
asserting that a madub was a bull- 
roarer used in raising wind. 

At Badu and Mua a madub was 
said to be a lazy fellow who would 
not work like others around him and 
would not join in group activities. 

Late one afternoon, a woman named Girbar set out from her home at Jiril 
to fetch water from the well, Mag. 1 There, because the water was very low 
at this time, she had to climb down the bank to the bottom to fill her 
kusul (coconut shell water-containers). 

By the time she had completed her task the sun had set, and, in a hurry 
to cross the swamp and reach Jiril before dark, she quickly slung the kusul 
over her shoulders and prepared to climb out of the well, only to find 
herself ringed around by madubal 2 who were standing on the top of the 
bank. "Girbar," said the madubal, "we have come to take you with us to 
the sky." 

Now the woman had no wish at all to go with the madubal, but she had 
no choice in the matter; for she was only one, and they were many. So 
Girbar went up to the sky with the madubal. 


The people in Saibai Village waited and watched for Girbar for many 
days and at last they saw her climbing down a very tall coconut palm at 
Bagunangulainga. 3 

Girbar brought with her three plants: banana, taro, and sugarcane, each 
a variety which had never previously been grown at Saibai. The people 
planted them, and they flourished for many years. 

During a thunderstorm, the coconut palm by means of which Girbar 
had completed her journey back from the sky was struck by lightning, and 
its trunk split. After that the trunk developed two branches, one pointing 
south, the other pointing north, so that the palm had the form of a cross. 
It had already been the tallest coconut palm by far at Saibai, but the centre 
part of the trunk still kept on growing upwards, and it continued to bear 
coconuts. 4 

3. Where the school stands today. 

4. Timothy Akiba said that he saw the 
rotting trunk of this coconut palm 
when he was a small boy. Timothy 
was about sixty years of age in 1967. 


Long ago, say the people of Ait kadal 
(crocodile) augad at Saibai, there were 
eleven children — one boy and ten girls — 
who used to go for rides on a crocodile's 
back. That each child always sat at the 
same spot accounts for the names given to 
those parts of all crocodiles ever since. 
These names are the names by which the 
children are identified in the myth. 
Furthermore, these names have been, and 
still are, used for children in families 
which have kadal as their totem. 

CROCODILE [Told by Enosa Waigana at Saibai, 

6 September 1968] 

Not far from the mouth of the Oriomo River on the Papuan mainland, 
there was once a small village consisting of three families which had the 
crocodile for their totem. 

In this village there were eleven children who, whenever the parents 
went to their gardens, were left at home in the care of a very old man. He 
was the oldest man in the village, and he never let the children out of his 
sight, neither the boy, Gaizu, nor the ten girls, Sabui, Kuikuit, Kuta-dan, 
Nataru kubi, Patait, Nubeza, Za-nubeza, Adata, Ulaita, and Mopata. 

One day Gaizu's father went hunting for pigs and kangaroos and as he 
followed the river upstream came upon a crocodile egg. 

Now when a single egg is laid by a crocodile it is a very special egg : it is 
like the son, or the grandson, dearest to a man's heart. Indeed, the same 
words are used to describe both this egg and a favourite male child: 
kadalau poipiam kakur (the crocodile's egg which must be carefully 

Gaizu's father took the egg back to the village, built a pen on the muddy 
side of the river bank, and put the egg inside it. When the egg hatched, he 
gave the baby crocodile to his son for a pet. 

Gaizu and the girls loved the little crocodile and played with it every 
day. They called it Aka (granny) because it was as dear to them as their 
own grandmother. 

The idea of letting Aka out of her pen did not occur to them until she 
grew big and strong. Then, one day, the thought flashed into their heads 
that Aka could take them for a ride on her back, and after that they could 
hardly wait for the day when their parents next went to their gardens and 
left them at home with the old man. And when that happened, no sooner 
were the parents out of sight than the children ran to Aka and coaxed her 
from her pen. "Aka," they said, "take us for a ride in the river." 

Gaizu sat in front at Aka's nostrils. Behind him, in order, sat the girls: 
Sabui, Kuikuit, Kuta-dan, Nataru kubi, and Patait on her head; Nubeza 
and Za-nubeza on her back; and Adata and Ulaita and Mopata on her tail. 
In their hands they held leafy branches of waba and kuruba and sam tete, 
plants which grew close to their village, and as Aka took them downstream 
with the current, they sang with joy. 


Ai dara besere nau nau a 
Ai dara besere nau nau a 

Porki porki siraria sorari gamada nau nau a 
Porki porki siraria sorari gamada nau nau a 

Aka went no further than the mouth of the river, waited there until the 
tide turned, and then swam back with the current. 

When the parents came home in the evening, Aka was in her pen; and 
since neither the children nor the old man breathed a word about the ride 
on Aka's back, the parents had not the slightest idea of what had happened 
during their absence from the village that day. 

Aka took them for many rides to the mouth of the river. Every time the 
parents left them at home with the old man, the children ran to her pen, 
let her out, hopped on her back, and in no time at all were on their way 
down the river. The parents did not learn what their children had been up 
to until it was too late to put a stop to it. 

A day came when Aka swam beyond the mouth of the river to the open 
sea, where she fed for a while on floating seaweed and grass before going 
back inside the river and taking the children home. 

Gaizu was very cross with Aka for her behaviour that day. After she 
was penned, he said: "Aka, open your mouth!" Aka opened her jaws wide, 
and Gaizu put his hands inside them and removed the seaweed and grass 
that she had eaten. "Look at what you ate!" he said, holding the mess 
close to her eyes, and with that, threw it full in her face. The old man 
thought to himself: "That crocodile will become bad-tempered." 

From that time, Aka always swam beyond the mouth of the river when 
she took the children for a ride. And Gaizu always removed the seaweed 
and grass that she ate in the sea as soon as she was back in her pen. 

The old man was very worried, and rightly so. For Aka, at first merely 
resentful of Gaizu's treatment of her, finally became angry and the next 
time she had all the children on her back, swam straight to the open sea and 
allowed her body to sink in the water. 

"Aka! Aka!" cried the children, "why are you sinking? We're getting 

Aka ignored the children. Besides, she was busy sending a message to all 
the crocodiles and sharks in the sea. Not until she had finished doing that 
did she come up to the top of the water, and then she began to swim— on 
and on, further and further from the mouth of the river. Late in the after- 
noon she swam past Daru (an island). "Aka," whimpered the children, 
"take us home." Aka took no notice of them. 

Back at the village, the old man had climbed to the top of the tallest 


mangrove tree, the better to keep his eye on the children. He could see 
what was happening, and he said to himself: "That's the last we'll see of 

East of the island called Bobo, Gaizu saw flurries of foam ahead. "Aka! 
There's a reef!" he warned. But Gaizu was mistaken. 

When Aka sent her message to all the crocodiles and sharks in the sea, 
she told them to go to a certain place and wait at it until she arrived. What 
Gaizu saw was water churned by the creatures that had gathered at Aka's 
bidding. When Aka reached them she turned over with a splash so great 
that it was seen by the old man at the top of his tree. The children fell into 
the water and were eaten by Aka's friends. 

That evening, the old man told the parents the whole story. When they 
heard it they turned their faces towards Bobo and wept. 

The crocodile, Aka, the children's pet, never returned to the village. 

BIU [Told by Wagea Waia at Saibai, 2 September 1967] 

Long ago at Saibai when the water in the sea was fresh and sweet to drink, 
a single mangrove, Biu, grew all by itself outside and beyond the unbroken 
wall of mangroves that ringed the island. 

One morning a pod growing at the very top of Biu fell to the mud 
beneath and broke the shell of Gitalai the crab, who had made her home 
at that spot. 

"Igari! Igari! Igari!" 1 cried Gitalai. "Biu, you have broken my back and 
caused me great pain. I shall ask Akul to punish you." 
"Akul!" she called. "Come and cut Biu!" 

Akul, the shell-fish, came at once and began to cut Biu with her shell. 
"Igari! Igari! Igari!" cried Biu. "Fire, come and burn Akul!" 
Fire came and began to burn Akul. 

"Igari! Igari! Igari!" cried Akul. "Water come and quench Fire!" 
1. Igari = iagar (alas!) Water came and began to quench Fire. 


"Igari! Igari! Igari!" cried Fire. "Guzuguz, come and drink Water!" 

And Guzuguz, the jelly-fish, came and began to drink Water. 

Guzuguz drank till the reef lay bare. Then she drank all the water in 
the pools where the crabs had their homes; she drank all the water in the 
holes made by fish ; she drank and she licked till the reef was as dry as a 

Presently Kimus, 2 a man who had gone out on the reef to fish that day, 
came upon Guzuguz. He drove his spear into the swollen, stranded jelly- 

"Bu-bu-bu-bu," gushed the water from the body of Guzuguz. "Bu- 
bu-bu-bu," bubbled the water as it flowed from Guzuguz out over the 

In the afternoon Maluigal 3 arrived at Saibai to hunt turtle. When they 
caught one, they pulled it aboard their canoe and cut the flesh from the 
shell. Then they removed the »7 4 from the liver and threw it into the sea. 

The bitter salt fluid of the il mingled with the sweet fresh water that 
covered the reef. Ever since the sea has been salt. 

2- Kimus is the name of a deadly arrow 
tipped with cassowary claw. 

3. Maluigal, deep-sea people. (Malu, the 
deep blue sea). Men from the islands 
of Mabuiag and Badu. 

4. II, gall-bladder. 

AUKAM [Told by Wagea Waia at Saibai, 2 September 1967] 

Aukam of Saibai wove mats by the light of the moon. The woman did no 
other work. 

When the moon rose at night she took dry coconut leaves and began to 
weave. When the moon set she laid down her work and slept. 

It was always her way — Aukam of Saibai wove mats by the light of the 
moon and at no other time. 

The moon saw that she worked only when he was present and, believing 
the reason to be that she loved him, came down one night and took her 
up to the sky. 

Within the bright circle of the moon's embrace Aukam still weaves her 
mats, as all may see. 



[Told by Wagea Waia at Saibai, 2 September 1967] 

The people of the long, low island of 
Saibai tell this story of the small, high 
island of Dauan, their closest neighbour 
in Torres Strait. 

1. Wagea said that some people believe 
Dauan left a part of herself at Mabu- 
dauan on the Papuan mainland. 
Dauan carried a basketful of fish, and 
some of these fish she threw out for 
Mabudauan before she went on to 

Once upon a time, a little zub (foothill) named Dauan lived beside Meiai, 
a very high mountain in Daudai, somewhere to the north-east of our 

Dauan always felt very lonely because the clouds hid Meiai's face from 
her, so one day she ran down to the sea and set out along the coast to find a 
new home for herself. For many days she travelled towards the west, 
seeing no place that pleased her until she reached Warukuik, opposite the 
island of Saibai. 1 

"I am sure Saibai would like to have me for her companion," thought 
Dauan. "She has no neighbours. Why, she must be as lonely as I." And 
with that, she crossed the water to Saibai. 

"Saibai," said Dauan, "may I stay with you and be your close friend?" 

"You may," said Saibai. 

So Dauan chose a site at the edge of Saibai's home reef at Danakuik, 
offshore from Saiwalaugagat. Saibai was not at all pleased. 

"If you stay there my people will have nowhere to go fishing or looking 
for crabs," she said. "You cannot settle at Danakuik. You will have to go 
somewhere else." 

The little zub moved on towards the western point of Saibai, to Gebarau 
Wak. Again she asked: "Saibai, may I stay here?" 

"Oh no," replied Saibai, "that would never do. My canoes anchor at 
Gebarau Wak, and so do the canoes that bring visitors to my people. When 
my reef is dry, Gebarau Wak is the only close anchorage I have for them. 
You must find another place." 

Dauan moved on round the western point of Saibai until she came to 
lama Wak. 

"Sabai, please let me stay at lama Wak," she begged. 
"I cannot allow you to do so," said Saibai, "because my canoes go there 
to hunt and fish." 

Then Dauan knew that there was no place at Saibai for her, for she had 
already looked east and seen the reefs that lay scattered in that direction. 

"Saibai," said Dauan, "you do not want me to be your companion, so I 
shall leave you. Do you see where big waves break to the west of you? 
That is where I shall make my home." 


"And," she continued, "I promise you this: 'When your canoes come to 
visit me I shall move away from you and call up big waves for the passage 
between you and me. When my canoes set out to visit you, however, I 
shall move close to you and give them a fair wind to make their crossing 
swift and smooth.' 

Whereupon the little zub moved out to the west and settled at the spot 
where she has remained to this day. 

WARUPUDAMAIZINGA [Told by Alfred Aniba 

at Saibai, 5 September 

A tortoise whose home was the Saibai swamp was suffering badly from 

Kuki (the north-west wind) had brought little rain that year, and the 
water in the swamp had quickly dried up. So although she walked from 
the eastern end of the swamp to the western — from island to island, over 
glistening white salt-pans and sun-baked red clay, through tall, dead reeds 
and grass — nowhere did she find a pool in which to soak her poor, hot 

At last she reached the place where the swamp is kept separate from the 
sea by a very narrow strip of land. Parched by then, she was climbing up 
on to it at the same time as a turtle came to the surface of the sea to breathe, 
not far out from the shore. "Come here, turtle!" the tortoise called, "I 
have something to say to you." 

The turtle swam in, and the tortoise walked towards her. They met on 
the beach. "Turtle," said the tortoise, "will you change places with me? 
Will you live in the swamp so that I may live in the sea?" 

"Would I have any friends in the swamp?" asked the turtle. 

"Oh yes," the other told her, "there are prawns and crabs and tortoises 
in the swamp — you would have plenty of friends. I badly want to live in 
the sea," she continued, "but I may not leave the swamp until I find some- 
one to take my place there : the number of living creatures in the swamp 
must always remain the same. You will like the swamp, I promise you. 
Only think of all the new friends you will have." 

1. The higher patches of ground in the 
swamplands at Saibai are called 
islands (kawal — singular, kawa). 


So the turtle agreed to change places with the tortoise and crossed the 
narrow strip of land to the swamp, and the tortoise walked out into the sea. 

Within a short time the turtle was in agony, her head and her back and 
her nippers bone dry in the dusty swamp. Before long she was dead. 

For a while the tortoise drifted along on top of the sea, cool and re- 
freshed. Presently, when she felt hungry, she reached for the bottom of the 
water with her feet, intending to search there for food. She found, how- 
ever, that she was out of her depth. There was nothing for her to eat on 
the surface of the water, so eventually she starved to death. 

The people of Saibai have a name for the narrow place at which sea and 
swamp nearly meet — they call it Warupudamaizinga. In their language, 
waru means turtle and pudamaizinga means the place at which an exchange 
has been made. Even very small children know that Warupudamaizinga 
is the place at which the turtle changed places with the tortoise. 


COCONUT [Told by Alfred Aniba at Saibai, 8 September 1967] 

A long time ago Mibu, a man who had a sore on his foot, left his home in 
Daudai and came to Saibai to live. When he arrived the village was 
deserted; he saw footprints on the ground, and fronds which had been cut 
from coconut palms, but every house was empty. 

Mibu was very hungry after his long journey, so he searched for food. 
There was nothing to be had, however, but some coconuts at the top of a 
very tall palm. He could not reach them from the ground because they 
were too far up, and he could not climb up to get them because of the sore 
on his foot. Mibu tried to coax one to come down to him. 

"Come down, coconut," he called to it. 

The coconut did not stir. 

"Coconut, good coconut, come down," he called. 
The coconut showed no sign at all of having heard him. 
"You are very sweet," Mibu cajoled it, "come to me." 
But the coconut was not deceived by his flattery. "If I come down you 
will eat me," it said. 

Mibu now looked round for a very long stick to knock it down and, 


before long, found a three-pronged fish spear which had been left behind 
by one of the men. With this he could reach the coconut. Thrusting hard, 
he pierced its shell with the pointed prongs of the spear, and pulled the 
coconut down from the palm. 

And that is the reason why every coconut bears the thrust-marks of the 
three-pronged fish-spear — they were put there, in the first instance, by 
Mibu, a man who came from Daudai and made his home in Saibai Village. 

AMAGI [Told by Wagea Waia at Saibai, 6 October 1968] 

Amagi and her little son, her only child, lived at Kagar, at the north- 
eastern end of the island of Saibai. She loved the boy dearly and denied 
him nothing — whatever he asked her to do she did; whatever he wanted 
she gave him. 

Now the child was inordinately fond of wild plums (ubar — or wongai as 
most people call them today), not small ones, but big, choice fruit which 
are not easy to find. So when the wongai hung red and ripe from the trees, 
Amagi used to search for the kind that her son preferred. One day, how- 
ever, she saw no big wongai, and she brought him small fruit instead. 

"Mother," said the boy, "I do not want these wongai. They are far too 
small. I want big wongai." 

"My son," replied Amagi, "I saw no big wongai. These are the best I 
could find." 

"Go and look for big wongai," her son ordered, and, when she would 
not because she knew there were none to be had, he burst into tears. 

At the time the two were seated on the ground in the shade of a wongai 
tree. Suddenly the boy saw what he craved — right at the top of the tree 
beneath which they sat was a big, sweet wongai. "Look, mother! That's 
what I want. Get that wongai for me!" he cried. 

Amagi saw it and knew it to be out of her reach. "My son," she said, 
"I cannot. It is too far up. I cannot get it for you." 

The child wept and stormed and would not be appeased. In the end the 
mother looked around until she found a long stick. With this in her hand, 
she climbed up the tree as far as she dared and then swung it at the fruit 


that her son demanded. The wongai flew away and fell into the sea beyond 
the end of Mamag, the natural jetty of sand and dead coral at Kagar. 
When the fruit hit the water it shattered to fragments. 

"Get it for me," said the boy, who had not seen what happened to the 

Amagi reasoned with her child. "My son," she told him, "it fell far out 
in the sea and burst." 

"I want that wongai. I want it. I want it. Get it!" raged the boy. 

Amagi walked down to the sea and began to swim out. 

Her son stopped crying — he was worried about his mother. Now he 
called: "Mother! Mother! Come back!" 

Amagi paid no heed to him. Presently she began to sing: 

Amagi nangulpa titeria baltaipa. 
Amagi nangulpa titeria baltaipa. 

(Amagi floats on top of the grey-green water. 
Amagi drifts away with the sea.) 

"Come back! Come back, mother! Come back!" her son entreated 

But Amagi took no notice of him. Instead, she swam further and further 
out — past the end of Mamag, past Ubarau Sapilnga, the spot at which the 
ubar had burst and then fallen into the sea as stones — until she was swept 
away by the tide. 

DAGMET [Told by Wagea Waia at Saibai, 2 September 1967] 

Long ago there was a man named Sibika who lived by himself at Makana- 
pai, an island in the eastern part of the Saibai swamp. Every morning he 
went to Kagar and speared fish. When he got back to Makanapai, he built 
a big fire and, after it died down, cooked his fish on top of a iu (rack, or 
spit) over the coals. Then he worked in his garden for the rest of the day. 

Now when Sibika walked back from Kagar in the morning he took a 
path which followed the creek, Bulaimai Kasa, and, though he did not 
know it, passed close by a dogai named Dagmet whose home was a surka 
mound. And Dagmet, seeing fish on the prongs of his spear, used to 
grumble away to herself: "Why does he never leave one for me? I live 
near the path. You wait, Sibika. One of these days you'll go home with a 
fine lot offish, but then see what happens." 


Sibika was very lucky with his spear one morning, and that night, be- 
cause he felt very tired, went to sleep early. Soon he was snoring. 

By that time, Dagmet was on her way to Makanapai, preceded by 
swarms of butterflies and dragonflies. Sibika, she knew, would not have 
been able to eat all the fish he had taken home that morning and would 
have plenty left on his cooking rack. Near Makanapai she began to cackle: 

Sibika, Sibika, ngi utuiuipa. 
Ina ngai Dagmet, 

War kaura abaiak, war kaura utuilag. 

(Sibika, Sibika, you are asleep. 
Here is Dagmet, long-eared Dagmet, 
One ear to lie on, the other to cover her.) 

Sibika did not hear her, nor did he stir when she sat down beside his iu 
and helped herself to his fish. 

Sibika, Sibika, ngi utuiuipa. 
Ina ngai Dagmet, 

War kaura abaiak, war kaura utuilag, 
gibbered Dagmet, mouth full of fish, 

Artist Kala Waia 

Wapi puime puime, 
Rid puime puime. 

(Sucking fish and bones.) 

When she had eaten every fish, she walked back to her surka mound, 
gabbling and jabbering : "Sibika, you think you'll find fish on your iu for 
breakfast, but you won't, will you?" 

Sibika went to his iu in the morning and found only bones and scales. 
He was very puzzled. There were no footprints on the ground. "Perhaps 
it was birds who stole my fish. Maybe eagles or crows," he reasoned. So 
he took his spear and went to Kagar for fish. Dagmet saw him as he went 
by and said: "There won't be any fish on your iu tomorrow morning 
either, my friend." 

When Sibika found that his fish had been stolen a second time, he 
decided to keep watch for the thief who came in the night. 

That morning he speared many fish. He cooked them, but ate none 
during the day, leaving all of them on the iu. At sunset he lay down, 
determined not to sleep until he learnt who was stealing his fish. 

So he saw the swarms of butterflies and dragonfiies, and he heard 
Dagmet's voice as she approached: 

Sibika, Sibika, ngi utuiuipa. 
Ina ngai Dagmet, 

War kaura abaiak, war kaura utuilag. 

He watched the long-eared dogai eat his fish and noisily suck the bones, 
and he never once stirred or moved hand or foot. 

Again next morning he speared many fish, and again he cooked them 
and left them on top of his iu. But when he lay down, pretending sleep, 
he had beside him a small club. 

Dagmet came and sat down beside the iu. 

Sibika, Sibika, ngi utuiuipa. 
Ina ngai Dagmet. 

War kaura abaiak, war kaura utuilag, 
Wapi puime puime, 
Rid puime puime, 

chanted Dagmet, mouth full of fish. 

Sibika leapt to his feet, club raised and ready. "You're the one who's 
been stealing my fish," he said, and then he brought down his club on her 
head. Dagmet screeched: "Too bad, wasn't it? I stole your fish many times 
before you found out." And then she died. 

Sibika set fire to her and burnt her on the spot. All that remained of 
Dagmet was a large piece of pumice (met) which is still at Makanapai. 


Head of harpoon-spear (wap), with harpoon (kuiur). The carved end of the wap represents a shark's head 

stories from 

BOIGU Talbot Island 

Poised to jump with his wap and harpoon a dugong 


[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 9 October 1968] 

The first people on the island of Boigu were two men, from whom the 
island got its name, and a woman named Met. 

For some time the men lived not far from each other on the northern 
side of the island, but, because each was effectively screened from the other 
by dense scrub, neither knew of the other's presence. Nor did the two men 
know of the woman Met who lived at Padin on the southern side of the 

One man lived at Kadal Bupur; the other lived at Boibil Gizu — close 
to the garden land worked by him near Mai. 

One night, the man who lived at Boibil Gizu walked through the scrub 
to Kadal Bupur — to learn that someone lived there. He returned again the 
following night, taking with him a gift of the biggest yams that grew in 
his garden. 

Now the man who lived by himself at Kadal Bupur had noticed the 
tracks made by his visitor and had decided to keep watch in case he should 
come again. So it was that the man from Boibil Gizu was greeted upon his 
arrival at Kadal Bupur the second night with the words: "Who are you?" 
When he replied, "My name is Boigu," the man of Kadal Bupur said: 
"My name is Boigu, too." Boigu of Kadal Bupur then invited Boigu of 
Boibil Gizu to come and live with him. The other agreed, but said that 
Boigu of Kadal Bupur must make his gardens near his at Mai where the 
soil was very fertile. 

So the two men lived together from that time, and every day they went 
to their gardens at Mai. 

One day, Met decided to walk across the island. When she reached 
Kawatag after making her way through the swamp, she went down to 
the beach and followed it until she came to Kadal Bupur. She saw a house, 
but there was no one in sight. She returned to Padin. 

The next day she crossed the swamp again. This time she took notice 
of the gardens and the coconut palms between Kawatag and Mai. Again 
she found no one at home at Kadal Bupur — the two men were away work- 
ing in their gardens. So once again she returned to Padin, still without 
having learned who was living on the island besides herself. When Boigu 
of Kadal Bupur and Boigu of Boibil Gizu arrived back from their gardens 

The church is at Kadal Bupur. 
Mai, a well. This is the well from 
which Boigu Village obtains its water 
supply today. 


at the end of the day they saw the footprints — footprints made by a 
woman — and began to argue about who should have her. 

Met came a third time from Padin, and was seen by Boigu of Kadal 
Bupur as she was walking across the clearing to Kawatag after she left the 
cover of the mangroves at the edge of the swamp. 

Boigu of Kadal Bupur went to her. He had connection with her, and 
then he took her to his home. 

After that, the husband and wife went together to the gardens daily, and 
Boigu of Boibil Gizu decided to live by himself again. 

Back at his former home the night after he left them, he made a plan to 
go to Kadal Bupur and kill the other man. 

Armed with his gabagaba, he set out from Boibil Gizu at dawn next 
morning, walked to the beach, entered the water, and swam to Kadal 
Bupur, reaching that place just as Boigu of Kadal Bupur threw in his line 
to catch fish for the morning meal. Boigu of Boibil Gizu, who had timed 
his arrival for that moment, grabbed the line, pulled it under the water, 
and allowed himself to be hauled ashore like a fish. Once there, he stood 
up, struck Boigu of Kadal Bupur a killing blow with his gabagaba, and 
immediately afterwards swam back to his home. He landed on the beach 
at Gerwai and walked from there to Boibil Gizu. 

Met, who had not gone down to the edge of the water with her husband 
to fish but had remained behind to stoke up the coals of the cooking fire 
(as Boigu of Boibil Gizu had known she would), knew nothing of what 
had happened. It was not until some time later that she went to look for 
him and found his dead body on the beach. 

She was still crying that afternoon when Boigu of Boibil Gizu walked 
through the scrub to Kadal Bupur. He asked her the reason for her tears. 
She told him that her husband was dead. She also told him to go away, 
but he refused to leave and after a while was able to persuade her to place 
her husband's body on a sara. When that had been done, she consented to 

3. The school is at Gerwa,. §° and llVe at B5lbl1 Gl2U ' 

4. Sara, a raised platform for corpses. Now all the gardens belonged to Boigu of Boibil Gizu and Met. 



[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 15 October 1967] 

A man named Kiba lived with his brothers on the banks of the Mai 
Kosa, a river in Daudai which enters the sea opposite the island of Boigu. 

One day, Kiba asked his brothers to go hunting [dugong] with him. 
They did not want to go, but Kiba insisted, and, in the end, they went with 
him. First they went to the small island called Kusar. Kiba cut vines for 
the ropes he needed, and his brothers plaited them for him. 1 Then they 
began to hunt. 

Before long they saw a dugong which had come to the surface of the 
water to breathe. Kiba made ready to harpoon it. The dugong, however, 
swam off quickly in the direction of Kerpai, the most easterly point of 
Boigu. The men gave chase. Kiba jumped into the water and, while he 
was below, told the dugong to run to Buru. 2 

After they had passed Kerpai, one of Kiba's brothers asked if he might 
jump for the dugong. Kiba refused him permission. He was still angered 
by his brothers' reluctance to accompany him when he asked them to go 
hunting with him, and it was his intention to punish them by refusing to 
allow them to jump for the dugong, and leading them on an exhausting, 
fruitless chase. Thus he would jump himself every time and pretend to try 
and harpoon the dugong, whereas, in fact, he would merely be creating 
the opportunity to tell the dugong to go to far places. 

Between Boigu and Buru, Kiba jumped with his wap (spear to which a 
harpoon is attached) and told the dugong to run straight to Buru. 

Off Buru, the brother asked a second time if he might try his luck at 
harpooning the dugong, but Kiba again forbade him and again jumped 
himself. This time he told the dugong to run to Mabuiag. 

At the small reef called Markai Maza, 3 Kiba caught the dugong. His 
brothers hauled it into the canoe, and the party sailed back with the south 

Kiba's brothers wanted to clear Kerpai, but Kiba ordered them to go 
across the island by way of Koi Kosa, the salt-water passage which divides 
Boigu in two. 

By then the youngest brother was almost dead from thirst, so Kiba was 
forced to make a landing on the northern coast of Boigu a short distance 
from Kadal Bupur. 4 He ordered his brothers to stay with the canoe while 
he searched for water. 

1. Aaron Anau of Boigu, who also told 
me the story of Kiba, interpolated an 
incident which Moses Dau would not 
admit to his version. This detail, 
which concerns a man and wife 
whose baby fell from its basket while 
they were fishing, is given by Landt- 
man (The Folk-Tales of the Kiwai 
Papuans [Helsingfors, 1917], pp. 236- 

2. An island between Dauan and Ma- 
buiag. The English name is Turn- 
again Island. 

3. South of Buru. 

4. The point of land on which the 
church stands today. 


5. Mai, a well. 

Namai Pabai gave these details to supple- 
ment the story of Kiba: 

From time to time people see a dugong 
in the muddy waters of Mai Kosa. 
Ordinarily dugong never frequent mud- 
dy water; therefore, the dugong seen in 
Mai Kosa is an unnatural dugong. And 
there is another strange thing about this 
dugong: men cannot catch it. A man 
sees the dugong and builds a nat (platform 
from which to harpoon dugong); only, 
the dugong does not come to the nat. 

Aaron Anau told me that there is a 
"story stone" in the river off the village 
of Lorn. It is shaped like a canoe — it is, 
in fact, Kiba's canoe, which turned to 
stone after it sank, taking with it the 
bodies of Kiba, his brothers, and the 
dugong which Kiba had harpooned. 

The spirit of this dugong is believed 
to have entered the dugong which is (or 
are) seen in Mai Kosa. 

Kiba threw his spear and obtained water at the spot where it landed, 
Katana Mai. 5 When he tasted the water, he found it to be half-salt; so he 
threw his spear again. Where it fell this time he obtained water which was 
sweet, at Mai Kibu. Kiba then went back to his brothers and pointed the 
direction that they were to take for water to drink. 

The brothers picked up their water vessels (lengths of bamboo, ngukiu 
marapat) and hurried off. They drank greedily and forced the youngest 
brother to swim in the waterhole. After they had filled the bamboo pipes 
they returned to the canoe, and Kiba gave the order to cross to the main- 

As they made their way back to the Mai Kosa, the spirits of Kiba and his 
brothers began to weaken, until outside Lorn — the village upstream from 
the mouth of the river which was their home — the brothers lay dead in 
the canoe. Kiba felt himself near to the point of death, and he began to 
allow the canoe to sink. And the people standing on the bank saw the canoe 
slowly tip over and go to the bottom of the river, taking with it Kiba, his 
brothers, and the dugong which Kiba had hunted and finally killed. 


METAKURAB [Told by Aaron Anau at Boigu, 17 August 


1. So called because he had yaws (guigui) Guiguisanalnga 1 set out from his home at Tuam one day to poke at surka 
on his legs and feet. mounds. He went towards Tarkazub and was quite sure that he would 

find many eggs, for he was very clever at this kind of work. But though 
he visited mound after mound and prodded every one of them all over, 
he was out of luck. There was not an egg to be had. 

At last he saw a mound which looked just right, one in which there 
would certainly be eggs. So he scratched away the earth and leaves and, 
sure enough, saw what he wanted. There lay three big eggs close together. 
Guiguisanalnga was very happy at that moment — not knowing that the 
eggs were attached to a dogais head. He put his hand over the middle one 
to lift it from the mound, only to discover that it would not budge. He 
pulled with all his might. Suddenly there was a noise, the mound parted, 


and out came dogai Metakurab — he had been tugging at an egg which 
was attached to the middle of her forehead. Guiguisanalnga rolled down 
the nest in his fright, and then he picked himself up and took to his heels. 

Because of the sores on his legs and feet, Guiguisanalnga could not run 
fast, but he hobbled along as best he could. He was breathless when he 
arrived at Tuam. The people asked him why he was in such a hurry. 
"I must have a drink and something to eat," he gasped, "before I can 

"Dogai," he said presently. "Coming this way." And he told them how, 
after a long search, he had at last found a mound with eggs in it; only, 
when he tried to remove one, it was stuck fast ; he pulled and tugged, and 
a dogai came out with the egg. "This is a painted dogai" he told them. 
"She is painted black and red, and she has an egg growing on each of her 
big ears. There is an egg in the middle of her forehead as well." With that, 
Guiguisanalnga got to his feet and moved on — he dared not waste any 
more time if he were to escape from dogai Metakurab. 

"Is there one dogai, or are there many?" the people called after him. 

"Only one," he called back. "You will know when she is approaching 
by these signs : first there will be a whirlwind ; then there will be a swarm 
of sandflies ; and after that a swarm of mosquitoes. When you see a cloud 
of big butterflies, the dogai will be nearly upon you." 

The women and children of Tuam set out after Guiguisanalnga at a run. 
The men armed themselves with bows and arrows and stood waiting for 
Metakurab. When they saw her they fled. 

They ran across Padin to Sere, where they found the men of that place 
preparing to make a stand against the dogai. There was no sign of Guigui- 
sanalnga or the women and children of Tuam and Sere — they were strung 
out along the path to Kowe by then. The men of Tuam ran after them. 
There was no thought in their heads of joining forces with the men of 
Sere, who, in the event, proved no braver than the men of Tuam. Soon 
they also were running from Metakurab. 

In this manner, the mad flight of the people of Boigu continued and 
grew, until everyone on the island except Bu of Kerpai was running in 
panic from Metakurab. It ended abruptly when they reached Gutatau 
Ngur, but only because there was no place left for them to run to. 

Bu alone stood his ground, Bu of Kerpai. The whirlwind passed by him, 
the sandflies and the mosquitoes, and the cloud of big butterflies — black 
ones, with yellow, red, and white spots on their wings. 

When Metakurab saw Bu, she knew she was about to die. "Isul Isul 
(What do I care!)" said Metakurab. "I hunted the people from every village 
on Boigu. I chased them from Tuam to Kerpai." 

"You will die for it," said Bu. And he shot an arrow through her. 

The spirit of dogai Metakurab is said to 
have gone up to the sky and become a 
constellation. (Haddon identifies it [Re- 
ports, V, 13] as Altair with a star on either 
side.) Since then she has been known as 
Kukilaig, the "person" (in the sky) asso- 
ciated with the north-west monsoon 



AND JEIAI [Told by Aaron Anau at Boigu, 18 August 1966] 

1. Mawat is on the southern side of 

2. Geinau, the Torres Strait pigeon, 
Ducula spilorrhoa. 

3. Poiteriteri, a grey and white swamp 
bird which has a yellow bill. 

4. Soboro, a tent-like cover worn by a 
person to keep off rain. It is made 
from the leaves of a palm similar to 
nipa, which are stitched together 
with fibre obtained from a variety 
of hisbiscus tree. 

For many years, only two people lived at Mawat: Geinau and her sister 
Poiteriteri. 3 

When they could no longer endure the lonely days, Geinau, the elder 
sister, prepared nobipui from the bark of a certain tree and used it on her 
body, the magic essence enabling her to bear a beautiful baby boy, Jeiai. 
He was perfect, but for the sores on his skin, and the sisters adored him. 

Daily throughout his infancy, the sisters anointed him with nobipui and 
bathed him afterwards in the healing waters of Mawatau Kosa, which 
helped the condition although it did not cure it. Geinau and Poiteriteri 
lavished on the wonderful male child a devoted care which brought him 
happily to early manhood. 

At Posipas, a small beach in Daudai opposite the island of Kusar, there 
was at this time a lovely girl named Panipan — the name means "lightning" 
— who had promised that the young man for whom she put out her torch 
during a dance should be her husband. Every day Panipan cut dead palm 
fronds for the torch she would hold in the evening to illumine the move- 
ments of the men who danced for her. Every night the young men of the 
village danced. But Panipan never extinguished her torch. 

Until, at last, even Pisapu despaired of winning her. Of all the dancers 
none had performed so magnificently as he, for, truly loving her, every 
movement of his body, and every word that had sprung from his lips had 
perfectly expressed his consuming desire for her. Yet Panipan had not put 
out her torch for him. He decided to visit his sisters, Geinau and Poi- 
teriteri: they might know of a man at Boigu who would prove acceptable 
to Panipan. 

Geinau and Poiteriteri heard the sound of Pisapu's canoe as it was run 
up to the landing at Mawat and were immediately fearful for the safety of 
their beloved Jeiai, for if strangers learned of his existence he would almost 
certainly be taken from them. Swiftly they hid him in the undergrowth 
beneath a soboro, 4 ordering him to make no sound until they came back for 
him. For themselves, they would say nothing, do nothing that would cost 
them their treasure. 

When Pisapu reached them, they had spread mats for their visitor and 
were busy preparing food. 


"Are there any young men at Mawat?" Pisapu asked. 

"No," said the sisters, "there are no young men at this place." 

"Where are your husbands? There must be men here," insisted Pisapu. 
"Where are your children?" 

But though Pisapu plied the two women with questions until the sun 
was low in the sky, he did not obtain the admission that he sought. He 
would have to return the following day and trick them into revealing the 
whereabouts of the young man who was concealed at Mawat. His sisters 
were lying to him. He knew it, for he could sense their fear. 

Jeiai was making a bow when he heard Pisapu's canoe grate on the sand 
next morning. As taught by Geinau and Poiteriteri, he snatched up the 
bamboo and string with which he had been working and hid them beneath 
a bush, and then he took cover beneath the soboro, not knowing that he 
had failed to conceal a mukub (the knot at the end of a bowstring). 

Pisapu saw it as he strode to the clearing in which the sisters lived. It 
proved to him beyond doubt that one man at least lived here, for only men 
made mukub. He picked up the bowstring and kept it hidden behind his 
back until he sat down, when he slipped it under the edge of the mat which 
had been spread for him by his sisters. 

"Are you sure there are no men at this place?" he asked, taking up where 
he had left off the previous day. "One of you must have a husband. I do 
not believe that there are no men at Mawat." 

Again the sisters denied the presence of men at Mawat. 

Pisapu brought out the bowstring. 

He told them about Panipan ; of her refusal to take any man at Posipas 
for her husband ; and of her promise to marry the dancer for whom she 
put out her torch. 

Any resistance to Pisapu's demand that Jeiai dance for Panipan would 
have availed the sisters nothing, so, although their hearts were broken, 
they agreed to allow Jeiai to go to Posipas. They insisted, however, that 
he travel alone in his own secret way. They gave their word that he would 
arrive in time for the dancing that evening. 

So Pisapu sailed back to Posipas. With him went Poiteriteri, who had 
hidden herself in his canoe. 

At sundown, Jeiai took the kuruai 5 that hung from the roof of the 
sisters' house, stepped on it, and walked quickly along it as it extended 
before his feet in an arch through the air to the roof of Pisapu's house at 
Posipas. Soon afterwards he took his place in one of the rows of dancers. 
Before long, Panipan put out her torch for him. 

In the morning, Panipan sailed to Mawat with Poiteriteri, but Jeiai 
returned by kuruai. 

5. Kuruai — an arch; a rainbow; a ma- 
gical aid to travel. Travel by kuruai 
is always in an arc. The kuruai in use 
today — as I was told — is a length of 
string to one end of which is tied a 
crocodile's tooth. 



DARAM [Told by Ganadi Toby at Boigu, 16 August 1966] 

1. Mawat is on the southern side of 
Boigu. It should not be confused with 
Mawat on the Papuan mainland. 

Every day the boys and girls who lived at Mawat 1 used to walk across the 
swamps to the opposite side of the island and fetch water from the well 
called Mai Kibu. The boys walked in one line and the girls in another. And 
every day they were joined by another group of boys and girls — from a 
place to the west of Mawat — who were also bound for Mai Kibu. 

It was the custom of all these young people to play wai before they 
commenced the walk back, using for the game the red fruit of the wai tree 
which grew beside Mai Kibu. They stood in a circle and threw a wai from 
player to player until it had passed through everyone's hands. Then they 
picked up their coconut shell water-containers, walked the short distance 
to Bedaltoga and played wai again. They played several times more, at 
other places along the way, but when they reached Kadapakuik they 
separated into their respective groups, the one going east to Mawat, and 
the other to the west of Mawat. 

Only one thing marred the enjoyment of these happy trips to Mai 
Kibu : a young girl named Daram did not keep to her place in the line of 
girls. Instead, she walked with the boys. 

The result was that the other girls grew to hate Daram and decided to 
punish her. Their chance came the day that Daram began to menstruate for 
the first time while they were walking to Mai Kibu. 

By the time the boys and girls reached Bedaltoga on the way home, 
Daram was so racked with pain that she was unable to walk. Damak, her 
elder sister, wanted to stay with her and comfort her, but the other girls 
jostled her on and put their hands over her mouth, so that she could neither 
go back to her sister nor even call to her. Damak's eyes filled with tears 
when she looked back at Daram left standing alone in the swamp. 

The boys reached Mawat first. "Where is Daram?" her parents asked. 
"She must have joined the girls," the boys told them. The girls arrived. 
"Where is Daram?" her parents asked. Damak told them what had 

The parents left at once to go to their daughter. At Bedaltoga they saw 
the red patch of ground where Daram had stood for a while. They could 
see that she had crawled west from Bedaltoga, and they followed her trail. 


Daram, abandoned by her sister and her playmates, made her way slowly 
towards the Wati Kosa. She rested at a number of places. 2 At the edge of 
the river she lay face downwards in order to gaze at her reflection in the 
water. What she saw, however, was not Daram, the girl, but Daram, her 
ghost in the form of a blue fish. Daram, the girl, jumped into the river and 
became one with Daram, the ghost, the blue fish, which, when the parents 
saw it, was recognized by them as their daughter. 

2. There are patches of red clay between 
Bedaltoga and the Wati Kosa. They 
are said to be the places at which 
Daram rested. 

Time went by. Damak no longer walked to Mai Kibu to fetch water. 
Sometimes her parents took her with them to their garden; sometimes 
they left her behind at Mawat. She was often lonely. 

One day when she was alone at Mawat, she saw a youth named Wolki 
walking on the reef with his fishing spear. She waved to him, and he came 
in to her. They talked until late afternoon, the time when her parents 
usually returned from their garden. Wolki was on his way back to his 
home at Samar before they arrived, and Damak did not mention her 
visitor to them. 

Wolki came again, many times. He and Damak spent happy days beside 
the Wati Kosa. 3 Then the parents found out and forbade Wolki to come 
to Mawat. 

Damak was broken-hearted. Alone during the day, she thought of 
Wolki and relived the time they had spent together. It welled from her in 
song. Sometimes she thought of Daram, her sister, and then she was 
infinitely sad. 

One day Damak made a pelican form for herself and tried to fly in it. 
She kept it hidden from her parents, but every day, as soon as they had 
gone to their garden, she went into it and practised flying. 

When her parents came home a little earlier than usual one afternoon, 
they saw a pelican standing on Giwai Butu, the big sandbank outside 
Mawat. They called to Wolki, who was fishing not far from Giwai Butu: 
"What bird is that?" Damak came out of the_bird, showed herself to her 
parents, and then went into it again. 

She flew from Giwai Butu to another sandbank, Adaripatara. Wolki ran 
after her. She flew on and came down at Paupanatam. Wolki called to 
her; but so, too, did her sister. She flew on. 

She rested at many sandbanks: at Augud, Kiasas, and Baini; at Gidi- 
gidniaizinga, Jeiantara, and Putitalmaitara. 

At Putitalmaitara she came out of the pelican and walked as a girl to the 
spot where her sister's ghost stayed in the Wati Kosa and threw herself 
into the water. Daram, the blue fish, swam slowly towards her. 

3. Not the river mentioned earlier in 
the story. There appear to be two 
rivers of this name at Boigu, one on 
the northern side of the island, one 
on the southern. Damak and Wolki 
lay beside the latter. 



[Told by Ganadi Toby at Boigu, 19 August 1966] 

1. Ubar, the wild plum of Torres Strait. 
L'bar is the Mabuiag word; the 
Meriam word is eneo. 

At Kerpai there once lived a woman and her small son, Waireg. The child 
loved to eat the fruit of the ubar tree 1 — not all ubar, only big, choice fruit. 
So, every day at the time of year when the branches of the ubar trees hung 
heavy with ripe, red fruit, the mother used to go and fill her basket with 
ubar, always remembering to place the kind that Waireg liked best at the 
top of it. She never disappointed him. 

One day, however, she returned earlier than usual. Waireg was still at 
play. His aunts paid her a visit and, as they sat talking, helped themselves 
to the fruit at the top of the basket ; so that, when Waireg presently went 
to it for his ubar, he found only one of the kind that he preferred. He could 
not believe that his mother would treat him like that. "Mother, where are 
my fruit?" he asked. "At the top of the basket," his mother told him. 

Waireg felt every piece of fruit in the basket. His mother was wrong — 
there were no big ubar in the basket. So he asked again what she had done 
with his ubar. "I put them at the top of the basket," she repeated. 

Waireg began to cry. He cried until his mother grew weary of his 
crying — and so did his aunts and the rest of the people at Kerpai. He was 
still crying when the sun went down, and as he showed no signs of stop- 
ping, his aunts decided that something would have to be done about it: 
they pretended to be dogai. 

One by one, each of the aunts jumped at him, made strange noises, 
threatened to hit him with a paddle — they acted for all the world like 
dogai. But Waireg only left off crying long enough to say to this aunt, 
"I know you're not a dogai. You're my aunt," or to that aunt, "You're not 
a dogai either. You're my aunt," and start up all over again. The aunts kept 
at it until they were exhausted, but Waireg was still crying. 

At last everyone slept — everyone but Waireg and one old man. 

Now ever since dark, a real dogai had been watching the people at Kerpai, 
and she had decided to eat Waireg. Seeing everyone asleep except the 
child — as she thought — she crept towards him and brandished a paddle at 
him exactly as his aunts had done earlier. Waireg, who was worn out from 
crying and was beginning to drowse, took no notice of her, thinking it 
was only one of his aunts trying to frighten him again. 

The dogai came closer and closer, and then she killed him with the 
pointed end of the paddle by driving it through his body. After, she 


picked him up from the ground and hurried off with him under her arm 
to her home, a surka mound; and when she was safely inside it, she began 
to eat Waireg from the feet up. By daybreak she had eaten every part of 
him except his head. 

Waireg was missed by the people at Kerpai when they woke in the 
morning. They searched for him everywhere, only leaving off when the 
old man who had been watching the night before told them what had 
happened to the child. "Look at that blood," he said, "that's the place 
where the dogai killed him. Follow the trail of blood if you want to find 
out where she took him." 

The people followed the trail of blood and came to the surka mound 
which was the dogai s home. They decided they would have to kill her. So 
they gathered sticks and twigs and branches, piled them on the mound 
and set fire to them. 

The dogai began to feel hot. Before long she felt so hot that she had to 
leave the shelter of her home and come outside. And there she stood, 
surrounded by the people, Waireg's head in her hands. "I have something 
to confess," she said, knowing herself to be about to die. "I ate one of your 
children." The people killed her then and threw her body into the fire. 

Afterwards they went back to Kerpai, taking with them all that was left 
of Waireg. They made a sara and placed the head on it; and then they 

Geinau, the Torres Strait pigeon, eating 
the fruit of the wild plum, ubar. These are 
Western Island names — in the Eastern 
Islands, the bird is called deumer and the 
plum eneo. Artist Segar Passi 


DOGAI [Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 9 October 1968] 

Once upon a time there were living at Mawat a man who was an expert 
dugong hunter and his brothers. At Ganalai, not far from Mawat, there 
was a dogai whose home was a surka mound. 

One day when the dugong hunter was walking on the reef outside 
Ganalai, he saw grass that had been newly grazed by a dugong. So he 
built a platform close to the spot at which the dugong had left off eating 
and placed on top of it everything he would need to harpoon the dugong 
when it returned with the next high tide to resume feeding. Then he went 
home to Mawat. At sunset he told his brothers that he would need their 
help before long and went back to Ganalai, where he sat on his dugong 
platform and waited for the dugong to come. 

It came when the water was knee-deep — at the same time as the Ganalai 
dogai was wading out to the dugong-platform. The hunter heard the sound 
of splashing behind him and thought it was made by his brothers. He 
whistled and shouted to them, telling them to anchor their canoe. The 
dogai kept on wading out, and only when the hunter glanced back to see 
why his brothers had not obeyed him did he see her. At once he laid down 
his wap. 

The dogai grabbed hold of poles that supported the platform and began 
to shake them. The hunter climbed down into the water and began to 
wrestle with the dogai. She bit him, and he bit her; but whereas she only 
left toothmarks on the man, he removed skin and flesh from the dogai. 
Fighting every step of the way, the hunter gradually manoeuvred her back 
to the shore. 

Both were exhausted. They collapsed on the beach panting, the man a 
little to the east of Ganalai, the dogai a little to the west. Later on, after she 
had recovered from the struggle, the dogai called good-bye to the man and 
went off to her home in the surka mound. 

The hunter returned to Mawat and found his brothers asleep. He made 
a torch from dry palm fronds, lit it, and shook it over them so that pieces 
of burning leaf fell on them and woke them up. Then he told them what 
had happened. 

In the morning, he and his brothers went to the dogafs home at Ganalai 
and kindled a fire on top of it. The dogai came out when the heat grew too 
much for her and confessed her behaviour of the night before. Then the 
brothers killed her. 




[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 9 August 1966] 

A long time ago there were no flying-foxes. Boigu is the place where they 
were created. 


In the "before-time" 1 there were two men here at Boigu, Moibu and 
Bazi. Moibu was head of the cassowary (sam) people, and Bazi was head 
of the crocodile (kadal) people. They were both good hunters [of dugong]. 

Moibu was more important than Bazi, because there were more people 
in his group than in Bazi's, and yet he never gave good food to his family. 
Bazi always shared every part of the dugong he caught with his wife and 
children and friends, but Moibu always kept the fat of the dugong for 
himself. Bones, liver, guts, and ribs — rida, siba, maita, bera — were all that 
Moibu's wife and children ever got. Rida, siba, maita, bera, day after day, 
day after day. They were sick to death of bones, liver, guts, and ribs. 
Moibu's wife could stand it no longer, and she made up her mind to do 
something about it. 

The next time the men went out hunting she cut some iwai (cloth-like 
fibre at the base of fronds) from a coconut palm and fashioned it into a big, 
strange frog-form. 

When the men returned the dugong were butchered, and as usual 
Moibu gave his wife and children only the worst cuts — bones, liver, guts, 
and ribs. 

Night came. Moibu's wife called out to Bazi's wife to come with her 
down to the beach. She told her to wait there for her until she came 
back. Moibu's wife slipped the frog-form over her head and hopped back 
to Bazi's wife, who called out to her friend in alarm. Moibu's wife hopped 
away, took off the frog-form, then came back and told of her plan that all 
the women should act out a frog play she had in mind. She poured out her 
complaints to Bazi's wife: "Every time Moibu spears dugong he only gives 
me bones, liver, guts, and ribs. I want some fat, too." 

Bazi's wife agreed that this was not good enough and said she would 
help her. 

As soon as the men had gone off to Kerpai on the next hunting trip, the 
women began to rehearse. They were ready by the time the men got back 

That night all the women went off on their own, put on the forms that 
they had made, and hopped about like frogs. They hopped into the well, 

1. "Before-time" is current Torres 
Strait pidgin for the old days prior 
to 1871. 


they hopped out, and they hopped ail the way back to the village, calling 
out like frogs. 

The men began to ask each other what it was all about. They shouted to 
their wives who, they knew, had gone to the end of the village. 

Meanwhile the women kept on hopping. They hopped round the men 
and over the men, and they sang a song which they sang over and over 

Kata! Katal Kata! 
Rida, rida, rida; 
Siba, siba, siba; 
Malta, maita, maita; 
Bera, bera, bera; 
Biamu! Biamu! Biamul 
Patimu! Patimu! Patimu! 
E—O—E—O—E—O ! ! 
When the women could keep it up no longer they hopped away to the 
well and washed their bodies. 

Next day Moibu lay with his head in his wife's lap for her to rid him of 
lice, and he saw paint marks round her eyes. Then he knew that the frog 
play had been acted out by the women. 

The more he thought over it during the next few days, the more he felt 
the women would have to be given a lesson that they would never forget. 
An idea began to form inside his head. Now he had it. This was a punish- 
ment fit for women who mocked at men. 

He found Bazi and told him. Bazi agreed that such behaviour from the 
women was not to be endured or forgotten. They put their heads together, 
and the plan grew down to the last detail. 

In the morning Moibu and Bazi ordered every man and boy at Boigu 
to set out on a hunting trip. 

They went to Kerpai and hunted. 
They went to Mawat and hunted. 

They went to Baidam and hunted, to Samar, to Kupugud, to Kowe, and 
to Pali. 

During the day they speared dugong; at night they cut them up and 
cooked them. 

Moibu and Bazi now told the rest of the party to remain at Pali for two 
days while he and Bazi went hunting on their own. Moibu was ready for 
the next part of his plan. 

He took some light wood — the very light wood called buat — and made 
from it a creature, the like of which had never been seen before. He put 
it on, climbed a tree and made a noise: "Ti-i-i-i! Ti-i-i-i!" He thought: 
"What am I? There has never been anything like this. I shall call myself a 


flying-fox. Ti-i-i-i! Ti-i-i-i!" He hid the form and rejoined Bazi. 

Back at Pali the next evening after hunting all day, Moibu went inside 
the new form which he had created, and showed the men his flying-fox 
dance. He asked them what kind of bird they saw, and when they could 
not say, he told them. He told them he was a flying-fox and that they must 
do as he did. He told them everything. 

The following night they set out for the village, Moibu in front and 
Bazi and the men and the boys behind. They were flying-foxes now. 

They flew to the top of a nabe tree and broke off every leaf. They reached 
the big well and sat on the dani (wild fig) tree. They stripped it of all its 
leaves. When they came to the dani tree at the village, they did the same, 
flying round in circles and calling: "Ti-i-i-i! Ti-i-i-i!" 

The women were afraid and begged Moibu's wife and Bazi's wife to tell 
them what kind of bird this was. "This is something new. We have never 
seen birds like this," they said. 

Then Bazi came out of his flying-fox form and said: "Why are you so 
surprised at seeing flying-foxes? You made a frog play. We know all 
about it, for Moibu saw paint marks on his wife's face. We are going to 
punish you by going away to Daudai and never returning. Every man and 
boy now leaves Boigu. The male children as yet not born you may keep, 
but us you will never see as men again." And the flying-foxes flew off and 
headed west. 

Across the sea on the banks of the Wasi Kosa, there lived a man named 
Bazi also, and the night the flying-foxes came to Daudai he dreamt. He 
saw them, Bazi leading, come to a dead jangau tree and fly into it one after 
the other, Moibu going in last. And in his dream he saw a man who told 
him he must do certain things the next day. He and his wife should go to 
their garden and dig yams and bananas and prepare as if for a feast. 

When he woke he looked for the tree, going from this one to that until 
he found the right one. And just as he had dreamed, he reached down inside 
it, pulled out the first flying-fox, who was really Moibu, then the next one, 
and the next, and the next, until there were none left. He looked round, and 
there stood the Boigu men. He shook with fear. 

But Moibu and Bazi said to the man from the Wasi Kosa: "Boigu is no 
longer our home. We stay here with you." 

They came to the garden where the woman was preparing the feast, just 
as her husband had ordered her. He told her not to be afraid, and the men 
sat down and ate. This was their place now. 

Moibu said: "It was my wife who told the other women to act the frog 
play. She did it because whenever I speared dugong I gave her only bones, 
liver, guts, and ribs, never the fat. Nevertheless they should not have made 
fools of us men, for that no woman may do." 




AT PADIN [Told by Judah Ganaia at Boigu, 21 September 1967] 

Daleko lived at the eastern end of Boigu at a place called Baidam. His 
two sisters, Kaku and Winama, were the wives of Uwagu who lived at 
Sere, west of Baidam. 

One day, Kaku and Winama walked to a nearby river and followed it 
inland. They came to land which was suitable for making gardens' and 
hurried back to Sere where their husband, Uwagu, was busy making a 
canoe. The two women did not mention their discovery to him, but 
announced that they were going to Baidam to take kutai (a variety of yam) 
to their brother. They did not give the true reason for their visit to Daleko, 
that they wanted to tell him about the new garden-land. 

The sisters spent the night with their brother and returned to Sere next 
morning. Daleko accompanied them. Kaku and Winama now told 
Uwagu about their discovery the previous day. Uwagu stopped working 
on his canoe, and the four walked to Padin to apportion the new garden- 
land. Daleko claimed the greater share; Kaku and Winama were left with 
a small part only. 

Daleko spent the night at Sere and returned to Baidam the following day. 
His sisters stayed with their husband at Sere. 


[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1968] 

Kererum and his wife, Muikup, lived inside the hollow trunk of a kuzub 
tree which grew close to the water's edge at Samar. They had two 
daughters, Buia and Kokaper. 

During the day Kererum used to fish on the reef outside Samar. When 


he brought back, the fish he had caught, his wife cooked them, and the 
family ate them. The only time the girls spent outside the kuzub tree was 
while they were eating. The colour of their skin was pale from their 
prolonged confinement to the kuzub tree for safety's sake. 

Kererum made up his mind to find out if there was anyone living near 
Samar. One night while his wife and daughters were asleep, he walked 
east to Baidam and from there looked across to Mawat, where, at that time, 
a number of people had homes. He returned to Samar and said nothing 
about his discovery to his wife and daughters, either then or later. 

The people at Mawat caught many different kinds of fish. Kererum 
caught only three kinds: kurup (coral cod), teibu keibu (sand flathead), and 
badar (striped angler). When the people of Mawat came in from fishing, 
their baskets were full. Every night they slept soundly because they lay 
down with full stomachs. 

Kererum paid a second visit to Mawat at night and, when he was sure 
that everyone in the village was asleep, stole to the food racks and removed 
choice, cooked fish. These fish he took back to Samar and gave to his wife 
and daughters. 

After that Kererum went to Mawat every night and stole from the food 
racks. The people could not understand how the choice fish which they 
had set aside for the morning meal always disappeared while they slept. 
Eventually an old man stayed awake one night and watched. So it was 
that he saw Kererum appear, remove the fish, and make off with them. 
He followed Kererum to Samar and saw him go inside a hollow kuzub 

In the morning, the old man told the people of Mawat about Kererum, 
and the men went in a body to Samar. They set fire to the tree which 
housed Kererum and his family. 

Kererum and his wife, Muikup, and their two daughters, Buia and 
Kokaper, came out. When the men of Mawat saw the young girls they 
wanted them. But Buia and Kokaper were not willing, and they attempted 
to escape by climbing up to a branch of the tree while Kererum, his wife 
beside him, was confessing to the theft of the fish. 

Kererum and Muikup tried to save their daughters but were killed by 
the men of Mawat. Buia and Kokaper then leapt into the fire and burnt 
to death. 



[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1968] 

Soon after they were married, a man and woman left their home at Boigu 
and crossed to Daudai, where they settled among the Wasi people. They 
built their home on the outskirts of the village. When a son was born to 
them they gave him the name, Bukia. The child had copper-coloured 

When the child was old enough to use a bow and arrows his father 
made a set for him. To begin with, Bukia shot birds; later, he shot bandi- 
coots; before very long he could shoot pigs. 

The father died while Bukia was still a boy. 

One night he came to Bukia in a dream and told him to go to a certain 
place. There, he said, Bukia would see many pigs. Bukia was to take with 
him the arrow with magical killing power which he, Bukia's father, had 
made for his son before he died. Bukia was to tell no one of the dream lest 
it come to the ears of the sorcerers who lived in the village. 

In the morning, Bukia went to the place described to him in the dream 
and shot a pig. He took it home to his mother. 

Bukia returned to this place again and again, and shot a number of pigs 
every time he went there — four, or perhaps five, at each visit. One day 
he shot ten pigs — the men in the village were in luck if between them they 
brought back one pig at the end of a day's hunt. Another day he shot 
eleven pigs. The Wasi men decided it was time to find out where Bukia 
hunted, so they sent a man to ask him. 

Bukia and his mother fed the man well and told him what he wanted to 
know. The man spread the news round the village, adding that he had seen 
the pigs which Bukia had shot that day — all were fat. The men were 

Again Bukia's father visited his son in a dream. He told him that he 
must now go to a different place to hunt. There Bukia had the same kind 
of success as he had enjoyed at the first place revealed to him by his father's 

Meanwhile, the men in the village continued to have as little luck as they 
had had in the past. They went to Bukia's former hunting ground, be- 
lieving that they would shoot many pigs, many fat pigs, but found very 


few, fat or thin. They were bitterly jealous of Bukia. They sent another 
man to ask where he was hunting, and then two sorcerers — Bukia's uncles 
by adoption — took a hand. 

The next time Bukia went to hunt, his uncles — the sorcerers — changed 
themselves into boars, passed him unseen and were waiting for him when 
he reached the spot that had been revealed to him by his father in the second 
dream. At the instant of releasing the arrow made for him by his father 
before he died, Bukia's bow snapped in two. The boars attacked Bukia 
and savaged him, ripping him with their tusks. They kept at it until he 
lay dying. 

Bukia called many times to his mother: "Bukia, Bukia mari. Bukia 
waradima. (Bukia is a ghost. Carry him home.)" 

When her son failed to return, the mother became worried and set out 
to look for her son. Once she thought she heard his voice, and stopped to 
listen, but the sound was not repeated, and she decided that what she had 
heard was two branches of a tree rubbing against each other in the wind. 
She went on and presently found her son's body. 

She wove a basket, placed her son in it and carried him home. She set 
him down on the ground while she heaped firewood around and on top 
of their saualag (the shelter in which a man stores everything that he has 
grown in his garden), and then she set fire to it. At the height of the blaze, 
she threw her dead son into the flames and leapt in after him. 

^X^A^X^A [Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1968] 

Early one morning a man who lived in a village in coastal Daudai walked 
down to the beach and saw a pair of mating turtles not far out from the 
shore. He needed help to bring them in, so he called: "Kaimeg o! Kaimeg o! 
Ngabanai ipal walwal saiwal kab o! (Friend! Friend! There are mating 
turtles here for us.)" No one answered from the village. He called again: 
"Kaimeg o! Kaimeg of Ngabanai ipal walwal saiwal kab o!" Still there was 
no reply from the men in the village. 

However, his cries had been heard by a wawa — a giant, of whom there 
are many in bush places — who, armed with bow and arrow, came out to 


see what was going on. The man was terrified. "What are you going to do 
with me?" he quavered. The wawa said: "You called for help, so I came." 

The man offered the male turtle to the wawa as return for his help ; but 
that did not please the wawa, who insisted that he must have the female; 
and since the man was in no position to bargain he had to yield to the 
wawas demand. 

No sooner had agreement been reached than the wawa said: "Go and 
bring them in yourself, one at a time." When both turtles lay on the beach, 
the wawa said: "Cut them up." And when the flesh had been removed 
from both shells, the wawa said: "Make earth-ovens and cook the turtles." 
The man grumbled about having to do all the work, but it made no 
difference: if the giant from the bush gave an order, the man had no 
choice but to obey. 

At last there was nothing left to do but wait for the turtles to cook. 
Worn out, the man sat down to rest. "Rid my head of lice," said the wawa. 
So the man searched for lice in the wawa's head — and caught so many that 
they filled the two halves of a coconut shell. 

Now while the man was engaged in cleaning the wawa's head of hair — 
which was full of earth as well as lice — the wawa fell asleep. He was snoring 
loudly when the turtles had finished cooking. The man said to a louse which 
he had removed from the wawa's head: "Presently the wawa will wake up 
and call out to me. When he does so, answer him with these words: 'I am 
still here.' " And then he quickly removed the female turtle from the 
earth-oven in which it had been cooked and hurried back to the village 
with it. 

He told the people everything that had happened during the day. "We 
must build a house on very high stilts," he urged, "and we must build it 
quickly. The wawa is enormous. He will surely come here looking for me 
when he wakes and finds that I took the female turtle." 

When the wawa woke up he could not see the man, so he called out to 
him: "Where are you?" The louse answered: "I am still here." And 
hearing that, the wawa went back to sleep. The next time the wawa woke 
up he was feeling hungry, so he went straight to the earth-oven in which 
the female turtle had been placed to cook. He was furiously angry to find 
nothing but an empty hole in the ground. 

He summoned every bush giant in the neighbourhood and together they 
marched on the village, singing as they went: 

Burum muli muli mu 
Pai muli (e) 

(We demand a pig. We demand a pig.) 
The people in the village heard the wawa coming and took shelter in 


the house that they had just finished building. The wawa and his fellows 
surrounded it, still chanting, 

Burum muli muli mu 
Pai muli (e), 

so the people threw them a pig. But it was not a pig that the head wawa 
really wanted, and he let it lie on the ground. 

Usar muli muli mu 
Pai muli (e), 

(We demand a kangaroo. We demand a kangaroo.) 

chorused the wawa and all his friends. So the people threw out a kangaroo. 
The wawa had no interest in the kangaroo. 

Mabaig muli muli mu 
Pai muli (e), 

(We demand a human. We demand a human.) 

shouted the wawa, and they kept on shouting until, in the end, the people 
threw them a child. 

There were no more demands from the wawa — he had had his revenge 
on the man who had stolen the female turtle from the earth-oven. He 'and 
his companions shot arrows at the child and killed it, and then they went 
back to their homes in the bush. 


GOIDAN [Told by Judah Ganaia at Boigu, 16 August 1966] 

Goidan and his wife Darak lived at Boigu Village. 

Darak fell sick. After a long illness, she died one day when Goidan was 
away fishing on the opposite side of the island at a place called Sere. Her 
ghost, who looked exactly like Darak in life, immediately went to Sere 
and sat on the branch of a tree. She watched Goidan, who was out on the 
reef. But as Goidan never once looked in at the shore, he did not see his 
wife's ghost until he came in from fishing, and then he thought she was 
his wife in the flesh. 


He was amazed to see Darak, for when he had left her that morning 
she was too weak to move hand or foot. He ordered her to return to 
Boigu Village, but she did not go. He walked to Padin, and she followed 

Goidan lit a fire and cooked some of the fish he had caught, the whole 
time watching Darak from the corner of his eye. After he had eaten the 
fish he told her to wait at Padin while he fetched some water and then 
hurried away from the wife who was behaving so strangely. He bent low 
over the pool to scoop up water and saw, looking up at him from the 
surface of the water, his wife's face. Not his wife's face, but that of her 
ghost! Goidan ran, his only thought to reach his home at Boigu Village. 
And as he fled across the island through the swamps he was pursued by his 
wife's ghost. 

Though fear drove him, he could not outrun her, for when she came to 
swamps and bogs she sank into them and travelled direct below ground — 
whereas Goidan had either to squelch through mud or take a long way 
round to avoid it. Thus when Darak's ghost was at the garden-land called 
Kausaraltoga and saw Goidan ahead at Gebalap, she sank straight down into 
the mud and very soon afterwards came up at Gebalap. Seeing Goidan still 
ahead of her at Gud, on the far side of another swamp, she went down 
again and came up at Gud. By then, Goidan had reached Kuituriabu. 

His feet found the poles laid lengthwise which form the track through a 
big mangrove swamp and carried him to the grassland and gardens be- 
yond. Ahead of him the path divided, one arm going to Boigu Village, 
the other to the sea. Breathless, witless, he sped towards the beach. He saw 
that his wife's body had been placed upon a platform {sard) at Kawatag — 
and he also saw her ghost standing beside the platform. He ran straight 
past both. At last he reached the beach. 

Darak's ghost was waiting for him. She came towards him and killed 
him with a turtle-hook. 

The people watching from the village did not see Darak's ghost throw 
the turtle-hook — all they saw was a swirl of sand between them and 
Goidan. They ran to meet Goidan, only to find his lifeless body with a 
turtle-hook in it. 



NGUKURPODEPODE [Told by Ganadi Toby at 

Boigu, 21 September 1967] 

A long rime ago there were two brothers living at Mawat (on Boigu). 
Ngukurpodepode, the elder brother (kuikuig), was bitterly jealous of 
Podepode, the younger brother (kutaig). Podepode had a very beautiful 
wife whom he, Ngukurpodepode, coveted, although he had a wife of his 
own; Podepode was more successful at hunting dugong than he; Pode- 
pode never shared with him the meat and fat of the dugong that he caught 
... In short, Ngukurpodepode hated his younger brother. 

One day while Podepode was out on the reef looking for grass that had 
been newly grazed by a dugong, Ngukurpodepode decided to kill him by 

That afternoon, Podepode erected a nat on the reef close to where it was 
expected a dugong would resume feeding at the next high tide and told his 
helpers that he would need them very early that evening. Shortly after 
sundown Podepode climbed up on to the nat. His helpers waited nearby in 
a canoe, ready to go to Podepode's aid immediately he called out. 

Before long the dugong came close to the nat on which Podepode stood 
waiting. It came to the surface twice to breathe. When it came up the third 
time, Podepode hurled his wap at it — the wap bounced straight back at 
him, striking his throat with such force that it killed him at the instant of 

Podepode had shouted as he threw the wap. The men waiting in the 
canoe heard him and immediately began to pole towards the nat. Very 
soon, however, they became filled with anxiety: expecting every moment 
to hear another shout from Podepode, they heard nothing — nothing at all. 
When they reached the nat they saw that the rope was still on top of it, 
uncoiled; there was no sign of Podepode. Presently they recovered his 
body from the water and took it in to Mawat. Then the wailing began. It 
continued all night long. 

Next day the relatives of Podepode prepared a feast. It was attended by 
many people from Boigu Village, who returned to their home on the 
opposite side of the island when it was over, leaving behind at Mawat 
Ngukurpodepode, and Podepode's widow who stayed to mourn beside 
the sara on which Podepode's body had been laid. 

Hardly were they out of sight when Ngukurpodepode began to solicit 


the woman. She refused him, so he raped her. Afterwards she fled from 
him, running across the island with all speed for the protection of her 
people at Boigu Village. All alone now at Mawat, Ngukurpodepode began 
to eat his brother's corpse. 

Presently Ngukurpodepode changed into an eagle and flew after the 
woman. He overtook her at Baidam, changed to human form, and had 
connection with her. Then he changed into an eagle and flew back to 
Mawat where, as a human, he resumed eating his brother. 

Ngukurpodepode interrupted his meal many times, always to fly to the 
woman. He caught her at Murigiai, Samar, Iubu, Gibu, Marapiltoga, 
Kabailtoga, Bedaltoga, and Mai Kibu. 1 Podepode's wife ran as hard as she 
could, but she was no match for Ngukurpodepode, who as an eagle could 
reach her swiftly whenever he chose. And every time after he had been 
with her, he flew back to Mawat and continued eating. When he returned 
from Mai Kibu, he began to eat all that was left of Podepode — his head. 

Podepode's widow was seen by her people at Boigu Village as she sped 
along the path from Mai Kibu. When they heard her story, the men armed 
themselves and went to Boibil Gizu to watch for Ngukurpodepode the 
next time he came over. 

Ngukurpodepode flew from Mawat to Mai Kibu, changed into a man, 
and set out for Boigu Village. The men who had been waiting for him let 
1. The big well from which the people him walk as far as Dawa Iabu and then they killed him. Ngukurpodepode 

of Boigu Village obtain their water. was glad to die. 


USURU [Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 9 August 1966] 

A long time ago at Boigu there were two brothers, Maui and Usuru. 
Maui, the elder brother, had a wife, but Usuru was still a single man. They 
had an unmarried sister whose name was Bumai. 

Usuru, an expert dugong-hunter, was always out hunting, and during 
his absence from Boigu on an expedition to Warul Kawa (Deliverance 
Island) one time, Bumai was married. The first he knew of it was the night 
of his return, when his friends hurried to him and whispered: "Your 
sister is married." 


Usuru was furious, his rage being principally directed at his elder 
brother. Maui was already a married man, but he, Usuru, was still single — 
what chance was there now of obtaining a wife since he had no sister to 
give as bride-replacement? 1 

The next night he sailed to Dauan. He went to the place where the skulls 
were kept and told the men who were sitting down there what had 
happened. They gave him gamada (a drink made from the root of a New 
Guinea plant of the same name), and after it had taken hold of him he said: 
"Come with me. Let us kill the men at Boigu." But the men of Dauan 
replied: "We cannot do that. Those men are our friends." 

Usuru left Dauan and sailed to Saibai. There, also, he went to the house 2 
where the men stayed and asked for help at Boigu. "We will not go to 
Boigu," these men said. "The people of Boigu are our friends." 

Usuru always travelled at night. The following night he set out from 
Saibai to seek help from the men of Kiwai. On the way he decided to call 
at "Old Mawat" 3 and see if the men of that place would take his side 
against Maui. They refused, and he went on to Kiwai, the home of fierce 

There, when Usuru told of his wrongs and asked for help at Boigu, the 
men drank gamada — which made them wild — and said: "We will go with 
you." And as soon as they had prepared their canoes for the journey, they 
set out. They landed on the southern side of the island at Mawat and slept. 
When they woke Usuru said: "Come with me." 

The men of Kiwai followed him across the island by way of Koi Kosa to 
the almond tree at Kadal Bupur where all the Boigu men were asleep in 
one house. Usuru took Maui by surprise, waking him and then striking 
him between the eyes with his club. At that, all the Boigu men sprang to 
their feet and said: "Why did you do that?" When Usuru replied, "Be- 
cause of Bumai," they had nothing to say. Usuru cut off his brother's head. 
Then he wept. 

Through his tears Usuru signalled with his eyes to the men of Kiwai 
that they were to go their canoes. He went with them, having now to 
repay the help given to him. 

This he did by fighting and killing enemies of the men of Kiwai in 
Daudai during the period of blood lust which he experienced after killing 
his brother. He fought all the way to the Fly River, killing so often that 
all men feared him. On the way back, still fighting and killing, he was often 
attacked, and sorcerers tried their skills to encompass his death. But every 
attempt to bring him down failed, because he himself understood the art 
of sorcery. At Jibar he spared only the very old men. After that, suddenly 
he had had enough of killing. 

Usuru then went to Mawat 4 and stayed with the people of that place. 

1. An informant at Boigu said: "If a girl 
is taken from one tribe, she has to be 
replaced by a girl from the tribe to 
which she goes as a bride. There 
would be nothing left of a tribe if 
this were not done. The tribe would 
become weak." Another informant 
said that marriage was a reciprocal 
arrangement between the two fami- 
lies concerned. ("Tribe" is habitually 
used in the broken English of Torres 
Strait to designate a totemic group 
of people.) 

2. A long house with a thatched, grass 

3. On the coast of Papua, opposite the 
island of Daru. 

4. Opposite Daru. 


For a long time he provided them with food, spearing fish for them daily, 
and hunting turtle and dugong for them at Wapa reef. After a while he 
began to think: "I have fed these people well, but they have not given me 
a wife. I shall go back to Boigu." The people of Mawat, however, did not 
want him to leave, so one of the men gave his sister to Usuru. 

After three sons had been born to Usuru and his wife — Kibar, Kabai, 
and Sigai — and a fourth child conceived, Usuru had a longing to visit 
Boigu. So he set out, taking his wife and children with him. At the end 
of the first day's journey, he ran his canoe ashore and, after telling his 
family to remain with it until he returned, walked to Jibar and made peace 
with the people there. 

Usuru came home to Boigu, and his daughter, Bumai, was born amongst 
his own people. He left her with them when he returned to Mawat. Many 
people living at Boigu today are descended from Usuru through Bumai. 


MATANG [Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 11 August 1966] 

Long ago there were two warrior brothers of Boigu, Mau and Matang. 
Mau was the elder brother. They fought for the love of fighting, and very 
often for no other reason. 

One day they received a message from their friend Mau of Arudaru, 
which is in Daudai 1 just across from Boigu. Mau bade them come quickly 
for yams and taro, which would otherwise be eaten by pigs. 

Mau and Matang made ready to go to Arudaru. 

Their sister wove the sails for their canoes. At mid-afternoon, just as 
she had completed them, she noticed a big stain of blood on one mat. She 
hurried to her brothers to tell them about it and so try to prevent them from 
setting out on their voyage. 

Mau and Matang would not heed the warning sign, and they set off with 
their wives and children. They reached Daudai and spent the first night at 
Kudin. During the night Mau's canoe drifted away. The brothers sent the 
crew to search for it, and they came upon it at Zunal, the sandbank of 

1. The mainland of New Guinea. markai (spirits of the dead). 


As they drew close, they saw the ghost of Mau appear in front of the 
canoe. In its hand was a dugong spear decorated with cassowary feathers. 
The ghost went through the motions of spearing a dugong, then placed 
the spear in the canoe and vanished. 

Next they saw Matang's ghost pick up the spear from the canoe, just 
as Mau's had done. It too made as if to spear a dugong. Then it replaced 
the spear in the canoe and faded from sight. 

On reaching the canoe, the crew members found the spear in it. 

On their return to Kudin they told Mau and Matang what had hap- 
pened. The brothers were sceptical and refused also to heed this warning. 
They ordered the party to set out for Arudaru, which they reached after 
a day's walk. 

The head man of Arudaru, whose name also was Mau, greeted them, 
with his own people and many others, gave them food, and said that he 
would give them the yams and taro the following day. With that the 
Boigu people slept. 

In the morning they woke to a deserted village. Only Mau of Arudaru 
remained. He gave them breakfast and then presented Mau and Matang 
with a small bunch of green bananas : it was a declaration of war. 

Despite the friendship between Mau of Arudaru and the brothers Mau 
and Matang, the brothers had lightly killed kinsmen and friends of his, 
and the first duty of Mau of Arudaru was to avenge them. The invitation 
to come across for yams and taro had been part of a considered plan. 

For days past fighting men from the neighbouring villages had been 
gathering at Arudaru. There had been endless talking until the whole plan 
had ripened. 

With rage in their hearts, Mau and Matang herded their party together 
and set out on the return journey. 

Mau of Arudaru had hidden his fighting men in two rows in the long 
grass so as to form two rows of unseen men. He allowed the brothers to 
lead their people back until they were halfway through the lines of fighting 
men. Then he gave the signal to attack. 

The Boigu people were trapped. The women and children and the 
crew members fled. Mau bade his brother break the first spear thrown at 
him. He himself with his bow warded off the first spear that was hurled at 
him, splitting the end and throwing it backwards between his legs, thus 
giving himself good luck in battle. 

Matang warded off the first spear received by him, but did not break it 
as Mau had commanded. 

Before long Matang was struck in the ankle by a kimus, the most deadly 
arrow. "I have been bitten by a snake," he cried, and fell dead. 

Mau continued to fight and kept backing towards his brother's body 


until he stood astride it. He fought until nearly all his assailants lay dead. 
The rest would have fled, but Mau signalled to them to put an end to him, 
so that he might join his brother. And this they did. 

Mau and Matang did not have their heads cut off as would have been 
done were they ordinary men. Their courage and skill in battle were 
honoured by their opponents. They sat the brothers against two trees. 
They tied their bodies to the tree-trunks, facing them south towards Boigu. 
On their heads they placed the warrior's head-dress of black cassowary 
feathers and eagles' wings, so that when the wind blew from the south 
the eagles' wings were fanned backward and when it dropped, they fell 


DUBUA [Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1966] 

Ausi and Dubua were brothers. They lived in a village on the island of 

One day, Ausi, the elder brother, asked Dubua if he would wrap a 
bunch of bananas for him. Dubua agreed and the following day went to 
Ausi's garden to do it. He did not know that Ausi had preceded him there 
and concealed himself in a patch of banana suckers. 

Dubua made a ladder, placed it against the trunk of the banana tree, 
climbed up, and began to wrap the bananas. As he made the second turn 
of the dry banana leaves used for wrapping, Ausi shot an arrow into the 
right side of his body, piercing him to the heart. Dubua fell to the ground 

A ghost now, Dubua presently got to his feet, broke off the shaft of the 
arrow — leaving the arrowhead embedded inside him — and went home to 
his wife. He told her they were leaving Kiwai. Together they loaded their 
canoe in preparation for the journey. They departed at sunset, to sail west 
along the coast of Daudai. 

Dubua did not put in at any of the places where people lived, sailing 
straight past Mawat and Mabudauan and the island of Saibai. When they 


ran short of water he made a landing at a lonely spot, took the empty 
coconut shell water-vessels ashore, and went off alone. Out of sight of his 
wife, he withdrew the arrowhead from the hole made by Ausi's murderous 
shot, and filled the vessels with the watery fluid which drained from his 
body. Afterwards he replaced the arrowhead in the wound and went back 
to the canoe. 

The woman was curious to know where they were going and, as they 
passed village after village without calling or stopping, asked again and 
again where their journey would end. On and on they sailed — past Boigu 
and Kawa and Pab— until they reached Milita Kasa. 1 

Dubua made his last landing. This time when he removed the arrow- 
head from his body to fill the coconut shells, the fluid from his body was 
putrid and foul. He did not seal up the wound as he had on the previous 
occasions. Instead, he walked back to the canoe with the arrowhead in his 
hands and gave it to his wife. He now told her the whole story. 

"Leave me," he ordered, "and go to Boigu. There you will be delivered 
of our son whom you shall name Dubua. Remain at that island until the 
child has become a man, and then tell him to go to Kiwai and kill Ausi 
exactly as Ausi killed me." 

Dubua stayed at Milita Kasa when his wife set sail for Boigu. 

Her crew were ghosts. Some of them left the canoe at Sapural Kawa, 
others at Tabul Kawa Gizu. There were none aboard when she passed 
Kawatag and ran in to land at Gerwai. 2 

The Boigu people met her. When they heard her story they took her in 
to live with them until her son became a man. Then, as her husband had 
instructed, she told the young Dubua to go to Kiwai and avenge his 
father's death. 

Mother and son departed for Kiwai and reached that island at night. 
Next morning Dubua sought out an uncle — not Ausi — and asked him to 
fit a shaft to the arrowhead that his mother had given him. When this was 
done, Dubua went to Ausi and asked if he would go to his garden and 
wrap a bunch of bananas the following day. Ausi agreed. 

Dubua had concealed himself in a patch of banana suckers before Ausi 
arrived. He watched his uncle make a ladder, place it against the trunk of 
a banana tree, climb it, and begin to wrap the bunch of bananas. As Ausi 
was making the second turn with the dry banana leaves used for wrapping, 
Dubua shot him in the right side with the arrowhead that had killed his 

Dubua walked back to the village. "Who wishes to take the part of 
Ausi?" he asked. The men were silent. No one spoke up. All knew why 
Ausi had died in his garden that day. 

Dubua and his mother settled down in the village at Kiwai. 

1. The river just beyond the village 
called Mari. 

2. The new part of the present-day 
village on Boigu. 





[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1968] 

At Boigu there are four small stone 
dugong which are used to call dugong 
and ensure successful dugong-hunting. 
This story is an account of the dugong- 
magic practised by a man named Duga- 

1. On the southern side of Boigu. 

2. A damab is a dugong's windpipe 
which has been stuffed with flowers 
of pog (a palm which grows in New 
Guinea) and wrapped round with 
hibiscus leaves. 

Dugama was expert at making dugong-magic. 

When he was approached by a man who wanted to become a successful 
dugong-hunter, this is what he did: 

He went to the stone dugong which is kept in the scrub at Samar 1 and 
turned it so that its head pointed north. Next he assembled all the bones of 
a dugong in their correct order on the ground beside the stone dugong. 
Then he decorated his body with leaves of the yellow-flowering hibiscus. 

Now Dugama knelt beside the stone dugong and anointed it first with 
coconut oil and then with black ash obtained from burnt coconut shells 
and kernels. Using parma (red ochre or clay), he drew a stripe from tail to 
mouth of the stone dugong. He drove a stake into the ground beside its 
head, decorated the stake with hibiscus leaves, and hung a damab on it. 
And when all that had been done he sang the song which calls dugong to 

The following morning he sent a man ("a spy") to examine the reef for 
signs that dugong had grazed during the night. Should this man find an 
area where the reef grass had been nipped off, he had to take back some of 
the grass which grew near it. This grass Dugama placed on the ground at 
the mouth of the stone dugong. He then whispered into its ear, telling it to 
call up more dugong. 

The next morning the man had to go to the reef again for Dugama. If 
he reported that dugong had answered the second call, Dugama turned the 
stone dugong so that its head pointed east of the spot at which the dugong; 
(one or many) had stopped feeding the previous night. 

The aspiring hunter presented himself at Samar the morning of the 
third day. He brought with him his wap (heavy spear into which the 
harpoon, kuir, is inserted) and touched it to the stone dugong several 
times. Afterwards he rubbed the wap with coconut oil. 

That night Dugama accompanied the hunter to the reef. Dugama took 
the damab and, from a position to the side of the hunter on his nat, used it 
to waft the dugong towards the hunter. 

Dugama's magic never failed. That night the hunter speared a female 
dugong with a baby inside it. When it was cut up, Dugama removed the 


grass from the dugong's mouth, with that action ensuring that this hunter 
would have future success as a hunter of dugong. 

Dugama's knowledge of dugong-magic has been handed down from 
generation to generation among the people at Boigu who have sam 
(cassowary) for augad. 

The stone dugong at Samar used in 
making dugong-magic 



SAGEWA [Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1968] 

Ukasar mabaig kait Boigulaig, palamun nel ipal 

(Two people here Boigu people, their names here) 

keda: kuikuig, Babaia ; kutaig, Sagewa. 

(thus: eldest brother, Babaia; youngest brother, Sagewa.) 


There were two brothers at Boigu named Babaia and Sagewa. Babaia was 
the elder brother. 

The younger brother, Sagewa, was a cripple who could not even walk. 
He went to Milita Kasa on the Papuan mainland 1 and trained in sorcery. 
After that he could change into a pig or an eagle or a crocodile whenever 
he wanted to, and in any one of those animal forms travel much faster than 
men who had full use of their limbs. 

One time when the men of Boigu Village went by canoe to Kowe on 
the opposite side of the island to hunt dugong, poling their way to that 
place by way of Koi Kosa, 2 Sagewa, who had been left behind in the 
village, changed into a pig, ran all the way, and arrived at Kowe before 
they did. 

One morning while they were camped at Kowe, Dugama — the man 
who made strong dugong-magic — saw freshly grazed grass on the reef. 
With the help of some of the men who had come to hunt, he erected a 
dugong platform just beyond the spot at which the dugong had left off 
feeding at the end of the previous high tide. 

At mid-day, when the reef was again covered by the sea, Dugama 
climbed to the top of the platform to wait for the dugong to come and 
resume feeding. He tied a damab (a dugong-charm) 3 to the platform. His 
helpers were waiting in a canoe nearby, ready to come to his aid when he 
called them. 

The dugong came in before long. Dugama waved it towards him with 
the damab and harpooned it — a fat, female dugong with a baby inside it. 
(Dugama was always successful when he hunted. His damab enticed dugong 

1. Just beyond the village of Mari. away from the platform of other hunters and, as well, ensured that every 

2. The big channel which divides Boigu dugong he caught was a fat one.) 

3. See W T)ugama, Maker of Dugong- Whiie the cutting-up was in progress, Sagewa put in an appearance and 
Magk", in this section. demanded certain bones as his share of the kill. Babaia refused to let him 


have them and, when Sagewa argued with him about it, struck his younger 

Sagewa crawled away to his sleeping-place beside the river at Kowe — he 
slept at some distance from the rest of the men — and used sorcery against 
Babaia. 4 It took effect when the men went for a swim in the sea after 
eating some of the dugong that Dugama had killed, causing Babaia to sink 
like a stone to the bottom of the water. 

The men missed Babaia. They searched for him until they found him, 
and then they carried him ashore and laid him face downwards to let the 
water run out of him. When nothing they did revived him, they took his 
body back to their camp. 

Presently Sagewa arrived there. At the time, Dugama was sharpening 
his tomahawk (aga turik, a European axe or tomahawk). The moment he 
saw Sagewa, he told him he would cut off his head with the tomahawk if 
he did not restore Babaia to life. Sagewa began by denying having used 
sorcery against his elder brother, but after a while he confessed and told 
the men to go away and leave him alone with Babaia. 

When they were out of sight, a snake came up out of the ground at 
Babaia's feet and began to crawl along his body, licking every part of him 
from his feet to his head. When it reached his nose, it inserted its forked 
tongue in his nostrils, and Babaia stirred to life. Babaia then accused Sagewa 
of having used sorcery on him. 

Sagewa said: "You treated me badly. You would not let me have the 
part of the dugong I wanted, so I punished you." 

Babaia ordered that Sagewa be given the bones he had asked for. When 
that had been done, the men pushed their canoes into the water and poled 
back to Boigu Village. They did not take Sagewa with them, but left him 
behind at Kowe. 

Sagewa changed into an eagle and flew to Toga, a place in the middle of 
the island. At Toga he changed into a pig, and then he ran the rest of the 
way home to Boigu Village and chased all the people. They were terrified 
— they knew that the pig was Sagewa. 

4. Nuid senau Babaian tidamair 
(He there Babaia used sorcery 
si muinu. 
there inside there.) 

The full meaning of this sentence is : 
"He [Sagewa] drew an outline of 
Babaia on the ground [or, perhaps, 
made another kind of likeness of his 
brother] inside [the place where he 
camped] and then performed on the 
figure the details of the evil which he 
intended should befall Babaia. While 
miming the calamity, Sagewa talked 
to the figure, commanded it, and 
addressed it with magic words as if it 
were Babaia in the flesh." The transi- 
tive verb tidamair conveys the exact 
nature of the kind of sorcery employ- 
ed (here) by Sagewa. (Babaian is 
objective case of Babaia.) 



[Told by Moses Dau at Boigu, 10 October 1968] 

Garuge had a younger brother named Atau. Their augad was kadal (croco- 

Their mother came from Top, the original home of the people who now 
live at Buzi, a Papuan village which can be seen from Boigu with the 
naked eye. Like his mother, Garuge had gad ("second skin"), a fungus- 
like growth which covered his whole body. He looked crinkled and grey 
all over. 

Garuge and his wife lived at Sere. His wife fell ill. He looked after her for 
a long time, but eventually he became sick and tired of her. So, after 
digging a hole, he stood on her chest until she was dead. Then he buried 
her in the hole. Afterwards he bit his tongue in a fury of remorse. 

Garuge's niece was away fishing when he killed his wife. Presently she 
came back, went to a basket that belonged to him and took something 
from it. Garuge saw her and asked what she had taken. The girl confessed 
and then went back to her fishing. 

After she had gone, Garuge sharpened a knife and hid it under a mat. 

When the girl returned to Sere late in the afternoon she was cold, so she 
squatted beside the fire and held out her hands to the flames to warm them. 
Garuge whipped the knife from under the mat and sliced the fingers from 
one of her hands. 

People saw nothing unusual in what Garuge had done. He was a great 
warrior, and they were accustomed to his rages. He had many heads in 
the sibui (place where bones are heaped) at Kadal Bupur. 


stories from the 


stories from 

MASIG Yorke Island 

During my stay at Yorke Island in July 
1966, I drew a rough outline of the island 
to locate the places named for me by 
"Uncle" Lawrence Mosby and Langley 
Warria. Some of these names are Mabuiag 
(the language of the Eastern Islands of 
Torres Strait). They illustrate Haddon, I, 
93: "Maino told me that the speech of 
the Masig people was half Miriam and 
half Western." 

Some notes on the place names 

PEDIG The stone called IKAN, used in 
"calling up" the wind, was formerly 
kept near PEDIG. IKAN today is to 
be seen in the porch of the church. 

KANDARAWAL A bull-roarer (bigu) 
used to be hung from a tree here. 

APASAU There was once a zogo stone 
at APASAU. The zogo was said to 
make coconuts plentiful. The stone 
was removed from Masig many 
years ago. 

MUKUNKUP A diamond fish used to 
come ashore here at sunset. From 
this fish, a girl and a boy emerged 
each evening. They used to kick a 
red ball. They had long flat heads. 

GARIBA A man by this name died here 
before Europeans came to Masig. 

SANINLAG The place was named after 
a man named SANI. 

UMI This is the spot, outside the home 
reef, where the Government supply 
boat anchors during the S.E. season. 
It was formerly the home of spirit 
women, UMI MARKAIL. 

MUR At this spot, on the beach itself, 
dense mux bushes grow. (Mux is a 
tall, spreading shrub with small, 
pointed leaves.) The place, MUR, 
is mentioned in the story of 

SAU The rocky outcrop on the beach is 
a landmark on this coral cay. Here, 
three hero brothers, SAU, KULKA, 
and MALO are said to have landed 
— the fourth brother had stayed be- 
hind at YAM ISLAND. SAU 
remained at MASIG, KULKA went 
The maxkai of the story of 
"IGOWA" lived at SAU. (Markai, 

RISAU Prior to 1871, the kod was at 

RISAU. It was destroyed by the 

early missionaries. 
MARUS This was once a village (I was 

told, "the first village"). 
GUDAMADU This was the site of the 

village in "Yankee Ned's" time. 

Copied from RAN. Chart Aus.103 

KEATS It^-> 

(Eegaba) g%> 

YORKE Is. .;■ 

%o%a\ 1. 

.•; 9°45'5- 

Rennel I. 
jjj- (Mauar) 

<6 - x 5mith Cay 

? , i 

Miles m ^> 



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July !9feG Ml 

MASIG (Yorke Island) 


[Told by Ned Mosby at Yorke Island, 18 July 1966] 

Igowa, head man of Masig, lived on the northern side of the island near 
the thicket of mux which grows across the beach almost to the water's edge. 
He had a fish spear which had four wooden prongs. He loved this spear, 
and so afraid was he of blunting its sharp tips that he never used it: he 
took it from its hiding place in the mux bushes and carried it when he 
walked about on the reef at low tide, but he only pretended to throw it. 

Sometimes the people of Masig used to walk across to the neighbouring 
cay, Kadal, to fish, and camp there for several days. Igowa did not accom- 
pany them on these visits, remaining instead at Masig to keep an eye on 

On one occasion when he was alone at Masig, he was disturbed to see 
canoes plying between the outcrop of rock on the beach at Sau (west of 
the mux bushes) and Umi, the anchorage off the edge of the home reef used 
during the season of south-east winds. So when he found a drifted log a 
few days later, he decided to use it as camouflage and go to Sau to discover 
what was going on. And this he did, pushing the log in to the beach after 
dark and watching from behind it. 

He saw a maxkai camp and, later on, maxkai dancers. In the middle of 
the night a canoe ran in with turtle on board. Two maxkai who walked 
down to help unload it saw the log behind which Igowa was hiding and 
pushed it into the sea. As soon as they returned to their camp, Igowa came 
in and stole one of the turtles. 

He took it to his people at Kadal and helped them place it in an earth- 
oven to cook. But when, early in the morning, the oven was opened, there 
was no turtle inside it. "Who gave you this turtle?" the people asked 
Igowa. And only then did he tell them about the maxkai camp at Sau, and 
that the turtle that he had given them was one brought back by maxkai 
hunters. Igowa said that he would go again to Sau and steal another turtle. 

So the following evening Igowa crept up to the maxkai camp and hid 
beneath some dry coconut palm fronds. Presently the maxkai began to 
dance, but they stopped before long because they felt tired — a sign to them 
that a human was watching them. The maxkai leader ordered his men to 
search for this person. 


1. The reason for taking Igowa's body 
to Sau was that his sister had been 
buried there at some time prior to 
Igowa's discovery of the markai 
camp. One may still see Igowa's 

They soon found Igowa and chased him away from Sau, beating him 
with sticks all the way along the beach to the thicket of mux bushes. There 
Igowa ran and got his spear and fought back against the markai. But they 
were too many for him, and soon he was again being beaten and chased 
by them. They kept at it until they reached the sandbank between Masig 
and Kadal, where they were seen by the people who were camped at 
Kadal. To them Igowa and the markai looked like a black cloud. 

Igowa was in sorry plight when he reached his people and told them of 
his treatment by the markai. They tried to give him food to eat, but he 
refused it, saying that all he needed was sleep. In the morning he was dead. 

The people wrapped him in a mat and took him by canoe to Sau. They 
buried him not far from the outcrop of rock on the beach. 


FISH [Told by Langley Warria at Yorke Island, 20 July 1966] 

Once upon a time a diamond fish {baldang) lived on the reef at Mukunkup. 
Every evening at sunset it came ashore, and from it came a boy and girl 
who played on the beach. They used to kick a red ball. 

These children had zebra stripes on their bodies. Each of them had a flat 
head (palai sawiu kuikulnga). 


[Told by Langley Warria for Lawrence Mosby at 
Yorke Island, 20 July 1966] 

A favourite pastime of the children who lived at Mauar (Rennel Island) 
was poking the midribs of coconut palm leaves into cracks in the ground. 

Now there were markai living underneath Mauar, and one day, while a 
girl named Gaibida was playing this game, she pierced the soft spot of a 
markai baby's head and killed it. This so angered all the markai that they 
caused the ground to open wide and took Gaibida down to them. 

Gaibida's parents became very worried when she failed to return as the 
day wore on and at sunset, when there was still no sign of her, they began 
to weep. No one had seen her since morning ; only one thing could account 
for her continued absence : she had been stolen by markai. So late that night 
an attempt to frighten them into sending her back was made by blowing 
bu shells, but it was unsuccessful. 

Gaibida's father approached the head sorcerer, a man named Zogo. 
"Will you find my daughter for me?" he asked. 

Zogo rubbed his body with the scented root of the plant called kusi- 
bagai 1 and walked to the place where Gaibida had been playing that morn- 
ing. There he saw a wide cleft in the ground — which told him how she had 
been taken to the markai's home — and he went down it. He asked some 
markai: "Is Gaibida here?" But they only said, "Ch-ch-ch-ch," so he 
walked on until he came face to face with the head markai. "Will you tell 
me if Gaibida is here?" Zogo asked him. "Gaibida is here," said the markai 
leader. "Will you permit her to return to her parents?" Zogo requested 
him. "No," said the markai leader, "we will not permit her to return to 
her parents. She killed one of our babies this morning." 

Zogo began to plead for Gaibida's release, and he kept on pleading until 
the markai leader told him to take the girl home. 

Gaibida's parents were overjoyed when Zogo brought their daughter 
to them. They gave him a present of armshells 2 

1. Kaempferia sp. 

2. The armshells were made from the 
cone shell, Conus leopardus Roding. 




[Told by Langley Warria at Yorke Island, 
20 July 1966] 

Formerly at Masig there was a rule which 
forbade men to walk on the reef near 
Umi in the evening. The superstition 
clings that men should not sleep on deck 
when their ship anchors overnight at this 
spot. In addition, those who visit Umi 
should throw food or drink into the 
water for the spirit women at Mekei — 
failure to do so entails bad luck. 

Amongst all the tales that I collected 
in Torres Strait there are only two about 
spirit women (markai [West Torres 
Strait], lamar [East Torres Strait]) who 
lived under the sea: "Umi Markail", 
told at Yorke Island (Masig), and "The 
Two Spirit Women of Daoma Kes", told 
at Stephens Island (Ugar). There is a 
reference to a lamar who lived under the 
sea in the story, "Wakai and Kuskus", 
told at Murray Island. 

1. Iawasu was head man at Masig in 

Spirit women used to live underneath a rock called Mekei at Umi, an 
anchorage at the edge of the reef which surrounds Masig. During the day 
they could sometimes be seen as seagulls, at others as women walking on 
the reef looking for beche-de-mer. At night, however, it was their custom 
to go ashore as women. They always went to the spot known as Marus. 

One of the spirit women of Umi became the wife of Iawasu. 1 She could 
spend the night with him, but she had always to return to Mekei before 


stories from 

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[Told by Asou Thaiday at Yam Island, 8 July 1966] 

Long ago a man named Mokan lived at the foot of Tura, the hill at the 
northern tip of Yam Island. He had no wife. 

Every day at low water, Mokan walked about on the reef shooting fish 
with his bow and arrows. When he had enough for his needs, he came 
ashore and cooked them in an earth-oven. After his meal he went to the 
well called Babud 1 for a drink. 

One year kuki, the north-west wind, failed to bring rain, and Babud 
began to dry up. The day came when there was not a single drop of water 
left in it, as Mokan found after he had eaten a very big meal of fish. He had 
a raging thirst, so he set out to look for water in other parts of the island. 

He walked to many places and had almost resigned himself to dying of 
thirst when he found a beautiful pool of clear water on a ridge in the 
centre of the island. He drank from it and wallowed in it and drank again, 
and then he floated on top of it — he was as fat as a dugong with all the 
water that he had drunk. And as he lay there, belly down, he sang a song : 

Mokan wazider buzar koi buzar (e) dangal wazider (e), 
Mokanan nguki taraika koi gab. 

(Here lies Mokan, his belly as big as a dugong's. 
Mokan is filled to overflowing with water, 
With water from Mokan's well.) 

At last Mokan dragged himself out of the water-hole and lay down 
beside it to rest and gloat. After a while he swept the ground clean around 
it, and then he walked back to his home. 

At this time, there also lived near Tura a woman named Geinau and 
her daughter Wiba, and they, too, were tortured by thirst. The girl begged 
her mother for water. "Mother," she moaned, "I am dying for want of 
water." And Geinau, herself parched and weak, yet found strength to sling 
kusul over her shoulders and go in search of it. At length she stumbled upon 
Mokan's pool. She drank from it, filled the kusul, and hurried back to 
her daughter. 

When Mokan arrived at his pool the following morning, he noticed 
Geinau's footprints. He was furious at the thought of anyone but himself 
drinking this water and, as soon as he had quenched his thirst, hid behind 

1. Babud is a small pool in the rocks on 
the seaward side of Tura, not very far 
above sea level. 


The names of the characters in this myth 
are interesting. Mokan is also the name of 
an inedible fish, a "sea toad", which, 
when disturbed or hooked on a line, 
puffs itself up to several times its normal 
size. Geinau is the name of the Torres 
Strait pigeon, and Wiba, I was told, is a 
"blue dove". 

Until recently, it was customary to 
pour a little water on the stone which 
once was Mokan every time water was 
drawn from his pool. If this were not 
done, it was thought that the pool might 
go dry: Mokan must not be allowed to 
go thirsty; otherwise he would cause all 
the water to disappear. 

Mokan's pool is still the principal 
source of water for the people of Yam 
Island. But they no longer draw water by 
hand — there is an engine and pump at 
the pool, and the water is piped to the 

some bushes in order to catch the thief. Presently Geinau appeared, and 
while she was drinking, he shot an arrow at her and killed her. He hid her 
body, swept around his pool, and went off singing, happy again because 
once more he alone knew about the beautiful water. 

Wiba was desolate when Geinau failed to return by dark and, as soon as 
it was light enough to see next morning, found her mother's footprints and 
followed them. Thus, she in turn discovered Mokan's pool and, seeing the 
ground swept clean around it, immediately guessed that her mother had 
been killed and the reason why. Shortly afterwards, she found Geinau's 
body in some bushes. Wiba determined to avenge her mother, so she 
swept away all traces of her own visit and hid in nearby undergrowth to 
wait for the murderer. 

Before long, Mokan came striding towards his pool. "Mokan wazider," 
he was singing, "buzar koi buzar." He laid down his bow and arrows and 
entered the water, drank his fill, and then floated contentedly. He thought 
of Gelam who had called at lama on his way to Mer. Was he, Mokan, 
not like Gelam, the boy who became a dugong? "Mokanan nguki taraika 
koi gab," he warbled. 

Wiba crept from her hiding place, snatched up Mokan's bow and arrows 
and shot him as he lay face down in his pool. Then she filled her kusul and 
walked home to Tura. 

Mokan, mortally wounded, clambered from the water and turned to 


[Told by Getano Lui at Yam Island, 5 July 1966] 

Baidam (shark) was used by Getano 
Lui as an alternative name for Kulka. 
See the story, "Malo", in the Eastern 
Islands section. 

Utu is a small island off Tidiu reef, 
south of lama (Yam Island). There 
are said to be many snakes on this 

There were once four brothers, Sigai, Malu, Sau, and Kulka, 1 each of 
them a powerful man well-versed in magic. They took counsel amongst 
themselves one day at Utu and reached a decision of great importance. 

Hitherto they had worked together wherever they went. They would 
now part, each going to a different island. In this way they would spread 
their influence over a far greater domain, for they and the people who 


followed their rule would be united by the common bond of brotherhood. 
When Sigai was asked where he intended to go, he pointed his nose 
towards Yam Island. 

At sunset of the same day Sigai took on the form of a canoe and set sail. 
He arrived off Zagwan 3 during the night, and, the tide being low, remained 
outside the reef until daybreak. 

A woman named Pasia came early round the hill called Tura, searching 
the reef for octopus. To her wonder and delight she saw a strangely 
beautiful canoe close to the edge of the reef. She and her husband were in 
luck, for it must have drifted down from Daudai, 4 and she, having chanced 
upon it first, could claim it as theirs. 

As Pasia ran towards it, it began to sink. By the time she reached the 
place where she had seen it there was nothing of it left, but she saw instead 
a pool of murky water where there had been no pool before. 5 

Sadly she turned back towards Tura. She was in a state of bewilderment. 
It was not to be believed that the canoe should have disappeared com- 
pletely. She had seen it — there, quite plainly, at the edge of the reef off 
Zagwan. Pasia looked again at the spot, and stopped dead : the canoe rode 
there as before. 

She ran towards it again. Again, as she did so, the canoe disappeared. 
This was beyond her understanding. She ran to tell her husband at 

Pasia's husband, Garu, called the men together. Here was a matter for 
weighty discussion at the kod, 6 and thither they went. They would seek the 
advice of those versed in magic. 

The following morning their leader ordered every man to fill his iana 1 
with scented leaves and bark, boars' tusks, and oils. They should arm them- 
selves as if for war and go to the pool in the reef at Zagwan. 

Pasia would lead the way, for it was she who had made the discovery. 
Garu, her husband, should go next in line, then he who was their head 
man, then the sorcerers. The men would take up the rear, equipped as 
the head man directed. Strict silence should be observed throughout. 

As they rounded Tura Pasia could not contain herself, for there it was, 
the canoe she had seen the day before. "Look, husband!" she cried. 

The head man gave the signal: "Kiss the ground!" The men prostrated 
themselves. Alert now in all their senses, they would give instant obedience 
from that moment, imitating every movement of their leader exactly. 
They were one with him. 

From his iana the head man took kusibagai* takar, 9 and kerikeri, 10 and 
placed them in his mouth. He anointed himself with magic oil. Chewing 
and spraying out scented spit he advanced to the pool off Zagwan. He, 
too, saw the canoe sink before his eyes. 

3. On Yam Island. 

4. New Guinea, the northern mainland 
(naigai dagam daudai). 

5. This pool, close to the edge of the 
reef, is called Wingaban. 

6. Kod, meeting place for men. Some 
informants said that the maidalgal 
(sorcerers) lived at the kod. 

7. Iana, woven bag worn over the 
shoulder; it contained a man's magic 

8. Kusibagai (Kaempferia sp.), a plant 
which has a scented root. The root 
was chewed in certain magical 

9. Takar (Ocimum basilicum), valued in 
magic because of its scented leaves. 

10. Kerikeri {Zingiber aceae sp.), valued in 
magic because of its scented root. 


11. "Spat" was given to me in transla- 
tion. Later, at Murray Island, the 
action was demonstrated for me, and 
I then observed that the action was 
one of spraying, rather than spitting. 

12. Augad — here meaning strange object 
or creature, deemed to have mysteri- 
ous strength, and revered as a protec- 
tor against enemies. 

13. It has its origin in a whirlpool off 
Tudu (Warrior Island). Magani or 
(Magan) was "worked" by canoes 
travelling between Tudu and lama 
(Yam Island). 

14. Bu shells were used to decorate a kod, 
and used also as a trumpet sounded in 
victory and to summon people to- 
gether. The bu is the Australian 
Trumpet Shell (Syrinx aruanus Linne). 

Arrived at the pool, he signalled to his men to form a circle round it. 
He chewed and spat" into the water. 

"Now show yourself, strange augad" 12 he said. "If you are for us we 
will worship you. If you are against us we will thrust our spears at you 
until nothing remains of you but fragments which we will cast into Magan, 
our master current." 13 

The canoe began to emerge, until it revealed itself as the like of which 
they had never seen. "Ngalpun augad (Our protector) !" they cried with 
one voice. "You are our augad." 

"Bring mats," the leader ordered the women. This new and powerful 
augad would be taken with honour and reverence to the kod. 

The women spread coconut leaf mats. The men stood at each side and 
at the stern and pushed with all their strength. The canoe remained where 
it was. 

"Bring decorated pandanus mats," commanded the head man. The 
pandanus mats were spread before the augad. 

Slowly the canoe left the pool and, as the mats were laid before it, 
glided along on top of them, past Zagwan, and round into the inlet known 
ever since as Augadau pudaizinga. Here the canoe turned itself round and 
moved of its own volition, stern first, in the direction of the kod. The men 
could not keep pace with it, but they saw a cloud of dust after it had gone 
inside. When they reached the place they saw nothing but a stone part- 
buried in the ground. 

The head man broke the silence that followed: "Who are you? What 
are you called?" 

They heard a gentle voice. "I am Sigai. I have made Yam Island my 

The men bowed low. They placed bu 14 shells around the sacred stone. 
Henceforth Sigai was their most powerful augad. 

From Sigai they drew the strength that gave them victory against their 
enemies. They brought their weapons to him before they departed for 
war. They did homage to him when they returned with the heads, and so 
great was his power that in the kod at lama there were soon many skulls. 



[Told by Simeon Harry and Salu Bann at Yam Island, 
6 July 1966] 


At low tide one morning, a man was walking on the reef at Gebar (Two 
Brothers Island) when he came to grass which had been nipped off short 
during the night by a dugong. So he hurried home, told his wife about it, 
and prepared for hunting. 

First of all he cut six mangrove poles for a platform, which he erected 
just beyond the spot at which the dugong had stopped feeding, and then 
he cut vines for rope. This, together with his harpoon and spear, he placed 
on the platform. 

As soon as it was dark, he lit a small fire on the beach. 1 When the tide 
rose, he swam straight out to the platform and sat on it, watching for the 
dugong to come in and resume feeding where it had left off the previous 
night. From time to time he glanced at the fire — and then, to his horror, 
he saw Kawai, the wicked, black dogai standing beside it. She was turning 
her head from side to side, peering out at the reef, trying to locate the 
dugong platform and the hunter — looking for him! 

Noiselessly he picked up his harpoon and spear, slid into the water, and 
swam as fast as he could towards a rocky point. On the other side of it, 
then out of Kawai's sight, he went ashore and ran home. He woke no one, 
going straight to his sleeping mat and cowering inside it. For a long time 
he lay sleepless, trembling at the narrowness of his escape from the wicked, 
black dogai. 

Meanwhile, Kawai had discovered the empty platform and guessed that 
the hunter must have seen her and fled. She had picked up his tracks be- 
yond the rocky point and was already following them when her intended 
victim reached his house. She stood outside it for a while, until she judged 
him to be asleep, and then went in to where he lay, his harpoon and spear 
on the ground beside him. By and by she ate him, leaving only his bones 
inside the mat. 

In the morning, the men in the village went to see what luck he had had 
during the night. "Where is your husband?" they asked his wife. "Did he 
spear the dugong?" When she replied that he was still asleep, they said: 
"Wake him." So she sent her children to rouse their father. From inside 
the house they called: "Father is dead. He has been eaten." The woman 
rushed to the mat and saw the bones inside it. 

1. There is always a possibility that a 
hunter may become entangled in the 
rope as the dugong tries to escape 
after it has been harpooned. There- 
fore, when a man hunts alone, he 
leaves a small fire burning on the 
shore to indicate the position of the 
dugong platform. Should he come to 
harm, men will know where to look 
for him. 


Corpses were laid on platforms for 
smoke-curing. The bones of these 
skeletons were kept as companion- 
able relics by members of the families 


After they had made a platform and placed the bones upon it to smoke, 
the men discussed Kawai. "Something will have to be done about this 
dogai," they said. And they made a plan to trick and kill her. 


For a long while Kawai was never once sighted by the people of Gebar, 
and the people became careless. 

One day, two brothers went fishing on the reef at Walikun, the younger 
stringing the fish as the elder speared them, and on the way home the 
younger brother — he was only a small boy — got left behind. Kawai, 
fearing the mood of the people after she ate the dugong hunter, had stayed 
well away from everyone on the island, but she had, nevertheless, kept an 
eye on the movements of each and every person the whole time from her 
hill-top cave, Bugan Kula, and she now saw a chance to grab a human 
without anyone being the wiser. So she hurried down to the reef and, 
assuming the face of the boy's mother, called to him with his mother's 
voice: "Come, my child." Hearing her, the child ran to her happily. 
Kawai took him in her arms, raised him to her shoulders, and strode off 
with him, back to her home on Iem Pad. 3 

She never permitted the boy to leave the cave, keeping him a close 
prisoner, but she fed him well the whole time until he had grown big and 
strong. And then she said to him one day: "Not this moon, but the second 
moon, I will kill you and eat you." So the boy knew that he must very soon 
find an opportunity to escape. It came when Kawai went off for three days 
to dig yams. The moment she was out of hearing, he squeezed through 
the narrow opening at the entrance to the cave and ran all the way to the 

"All this time," he told the people, "I have been Kawai's prisoner. She 
pretended to be my mother that day I was stringing fish for my brother at 
Walikun, and she took me to Bugan Kula. She always fed me very well, 
but a few days ago she said that next moon she would kill me and eat me. 
So I ran away." 

Now the men knew that Kawai would come looking for the boy as soon 
as she missed him, so they set to work according to the plan that they had 
made a long time ago. They made a ladder and stood it against a tree, and 
then they climbed it and built a platform high up in the branches. The two 
steps at the top of the ladder looked no different from the rest, but they 
would, in fact, bear no weight without breaking. The men sat down on the 
3. The hill on which Bugan Kula is platform, each with his bow and arrows beside him, and the women hid 
situated. in the grass. The latter had armed themselves with sticks. 


Kawai had only dug three or four yams from the ground when her 
digging stick broke. "Something is wrong at my home," she thought. She 
was convinced of it when another digging stick broke. When the third 
stick broke, she said: "Something has happened to that boy. He must have 
run away." And with that, she ran back to Bugan Kula. Finding him gone, 
she flew into a rage and stormed: "I'll find that boy and eat him and all the 
other people besides." She dressed herself in dogai fashion, picked up a 
heavy stick, and charged down the hillside. 

The men waiting on the platform could follow her progress, because 
birds flew up from trees as she reached them. "Everybody ready," the men 
called, "the dogai is coming." They told the boy whom she had stolen to 
sit at the front of the platform and hold his bow at the ready. 

When Kawai reached the bottom of the ladder, she shouted at the boy : 
"You ran away, but you will die today and so will everyone else." Step 
by step she climbed the ladder until she put her feet on the two at the top 
and then she crashed to the ground. 

The boy shot an arrow into her heart. The women came out from their 
hiding places in the grass and beat her with their sticks, and the men came 
down from the platform and cut off her head with a bamboo knife. 
Finally, they made a big fire and threw the wicked, black dogai into the 


[Told by Asou Thaiday at Yam Island, 6 July 1966] 

At the top of Gebin Pad, a hill on the island of Gebar which many people 
today call Two Brothers Island, there lived inside a stone a dogai 1 named 

Uzu looked like all other dogai, tall and skinny, with a face like a flying- 
fox. She had long teeth and big ears; indeed, her ears were so big that when 
she lay down to sleep, she could use one as a mat and the other as a cover 
to keep her warm. But Uzu was a good dogai, and she was very kind to 
anyone in trouble. 2 

1 . The people of the Western Islands of 
Torres Strait formerly believed in 
witch-like creatures whom they 
called dogai. Dogai lived in stones, or 
trees, or underground. They could 
impersonate living women. Most 
dogai were evil and all were greatly 

2. When Asou Thaiday had finished 
telling the story of Uzu she said: 
"That white dogai, this one. 'Em no 
savvy kaikai man, this one tame one. 
Some 'nother one in this part here, 
this one kaikai man, but this one no 
kaikai man." 


One day the women and the girls from the village of Gebi went out 
fishing on the reef, stringing the fish together as they caught them. In the 
late afternoon they turned back. 

Alas, one poor girl, whose name also was Uzu, was stung by a stone- 
fish. The pain was so bad that she could not walk. She had to sit down and 
watch her friends disappear from sight around Umai Piti Gizu. The tears 
streamed from her eyes. There she was, alone, the sun nearly gone down 
into the sea. 

From her home Uzu saw all that had happened, so she made her way 
towards her namesake. 

The girl saw her coming and screamed with fright: "Mother! Mother! 
The dogai is going to kill me!" 

But she was quite wrong. 

This dogai, the white one, the good one, pulled a hair from her head, 
tied it round Uzu's foot over the wound, put her over her shoulder, and 
carried her up to her home inside the stone. She made the girl sit down, 
spread leaves over the sore place on her foot, and told her to sleep. Then 
she went off to dig kutai and kog and bua (yams). 

When the girl woke next morning she was given the best parts of the 
freshly roasted yams, Uzu the dogai contenting herself with the burnt 
outside crusts. 

Every day this white dogai rubbed the girl's foot and dressed it with 
fresh leaves, and every day she fed the girl well. 

When the girl's foot was healed, and there was no more pain in it, the 
good dogai took her back to her village, saying, as she left her: "When 
the men are cutting up dugong and turtle, set aside a portion for me. 
Go now, and give your family this present of yams." 

The girl ran to her mother and told her the whole story. 

And ever after, when the canoes returned from hunting, and the men 
had butchered their kill, the girl Uzu filled a basket and made her way up 
the hill. Outside the stone where Uzu, the white dogai who did not eat 
people, had her home, she called: "Aka! Aka! (Granny! Granny!) I have 
brought your share of meat and fat." 


[Told by Harry Simeon at Yam Island, 10 July 1966] 

Maida ino (wa) Maida, 
Kaubuka ulaika, 
Kaubuka ulaika (wa) (a). 
Maida ina (wa), 
Maida kaubuka. 

(Here is Maida going to war, going to war. 
Here is Maida, Maida going to war.) 

(Old song) 


Maida of Yam Island was a great fighter. He lived in a hollow beneath a 
big boulder. 

Whenever turtle or dugong were caught, the people always called 
Maida to come and allot them their share of the meat and fat from these 
animals. Maida, however, was very greedy and always kept back for him- 
self the choicest cuts and most of the fat. His behaviour was noted by the 

One day he was called to divide three turtles amongst the people. After- 
wards the sorcerers said: "He took nearly all the fat. He gave us very little. 
He always does that." One sorcerer said: "I'll attend to it. I'll kill him by 
making him choke on a lump of fat." 

The next time Maida divided a turtle for the people, he took home most 
of the fat as usual. Then he cooked a meal and sat down to eat it. His 
first mouthful was a great lump of fat which, when he tried to swallow 
it, stuck fast in his throat. Presently he died of it, choking to death. 

After a few days, the people in the village began to wonder what had 
happened to Maida. No one had seen him. So one of the men went to 
look for him. He found Maida dead in the hollow beneath the boulder 
which was Maida's home. There was a lump of turtle fat in Maida's throat. 


DUGAMA [Told by Mareko Maino of Yam Island at Thursday 

Island, 31 August 1966] 

1. Not to be confused with Burke 
Island (Sauraz), north of Mt. Ernest 
Island. Bourke Island, for which I 
could find no memory of the original 
name, is SSE. of Yorke Island (Masig). 

2. See introductory note to "Beug and 
the Sarup" in the section, "Stories 
from Badu". 

3. The name in popular use today for 
ubar (or eneo), the wild plum. 

Dugama of Dauan set sail for Mer with a party of men and a woman. Off 
Bourke Island, 1 a strong south-westerly sprang up, and the canoe over- 
turned and sank. All were drowned except Dugama who began to swim 
with the tide. 

Dugama was now a castaway, a sarup, 2 and his plight was grave; never- 
theless, he determined to try and stay alive and somehow find a way to 
return to Dauan. So he swam. 

He passed between Kebi Keian and Au Keian, two small islands close to 
Masig (Yorke Island), and reached Aurid at sunset. He could see people at 
one end of this island, so he crept ashore at the other and went into the 
scrub, where he spent his first night as a sarup. 

Dugama was hungry when he woke in the morning, so he moved about 
quietly in search of food until he came to a wongai 3 tree which was laden 
with ripe, red fruit. As he ate the wongai, he threw the seeds on the ground. 

They were noticed by a woman who came along soon afterwards to fill 
her baskets with fruit. "Hullo," she said, "somebody has been here during 
the night. Can there be a sarup on the island?" Presently she was joined by 
other women, who had also come to pluck wongai, and she showed them 
the seeds of freshly eaten fruit. They discussed what should be done and 
decided to fill their baskets as quickly as possible and return to the village. 
They would tell their husbands what they had seen. 

Dugama had been hiding at the top of the wongai tree, having climbed up 
at the first sound of the woman's approach, and he now watched them all 
the way back to their homes from this vantage point. He stayed where he 
was, from time to time eating a ripe wongai, and saw the people go out on 
the reef to fish. A girl was stung by a stone-fish and her mother and father 
took her back to their house. But they did not stay with her long, because 
they had not yet caught any fish, and were soon on their way to the reef 
again, leaving the girl behind. Seeing that, Dugama came down the tree 
in a flash and ran for her. 

When he reached the round house in which the girl lived, he stood to one 
side of the small, low door for a while, listening to her crying, and then 
he bent down and peered in at her. She lay on her back, her sore foot 
raised because of the pain from the sting. Seeing Dugama's face, she 


screamed: "Ama, sarup (Mother, samp)]" Dugama said: "I am a man, 
Dugama. I have come to mate with you." "Ama, sarup!" the girl screamed 
a second time. But soon afterwards she went outside to Dugama, and the 
couple spent the rest of the day together until the tide turned, and the 
people began to come in from the reef. Before leaving the girl, Dugama 
told her that he would visit her that night and bring leaves with which to 
dress her foot. He asked her in which part of the house she slept and, after 
learning that her parents lay to the right of the fire and she to the left of it, 
ran back to the wongai tree which he had made his home, climbed up, and 
resumed his watch on the people of Aurid. 

At sunset they were grilling the fish which they had caught over open 
fires. They ate their evening meal, and the fires began to burn low. Soon 
afterwards they went inside their houses, and all was silent. 

Dugama left his tree and walked noiselessly towards the village. He 
crouched down in the grass not far from the house in which his girl lived. 
When he was sure that everyone was asleep, he crept towards it and 
scratched the wall beside the girl with a leaf. Hearing Dugama's signal, 
she crept out to him. Dugama kissed her and treated her foot, and 
whispered his intention to come again in the morning after everyone had 
gone to the reef to fish. The girl said: "Come then. I want you to come." 
Dugama returned to his wongai tree and went to sleep in it, high above 
the ground. 

Dugama spent many days at Aurid, visiting the girl whenever he was 
sure that everyone else was out fishing on the reef, caring for her foot, 
making love to her. He never stirred from his hiding place, the wongai 
tree, if there was the least danger that he be seen by those who would kill 
him because he was a sarup. And then, one day when he went to the girl, 
she said: "I am going to have a baby." To which Dugama replied: "I 
shall leave this evening. Your father and mother will find out about the 
baby, and I shall be hunted and killed if I stay." So, that afternoon, Dugama 
lashed together two drifted logs that were lying on the beach, loaded them 
with wongai and departed from Aurid. 

From Aurid Dugama made his way to Iarpar 4 (Pumpkin Island), a small 
island not far from Poruma (Coconut Island). No one lived at Iarpar, 
which he reached at daybreak, so he pushed his raft up on to the reef and 
went ashore. He found some wongai trees in fruit and some dry coconuts 
[lying on the beach]. He had to make up his mind which island to go to 
next. Poruma was not far away, and he had two friends who lived there, 
but it lay south of Iarpar and would place him further than ever from 
Dauan. On the other hand, he could go to Utu (Dove Island) : it was un- 
inhabited and would not take him from the direction he had to follow. 
There were said to be snakes at Utu, but he was not afraid of snakes. So to 

4. Iarpar is marked on charts as Roberts 


Utu he went, leaving Iarpar in the same manner as he had left Aurid — on 
two drifted logs tied together with vine. He took wongai and dry coconuts 
with him for food and set out after dark. 

He spent the following day at Utu and planned the next stage of his 
journey. He thought again of his friends at Poruma, which he could easily 
reach from Utu, and then he thought of two brothers whom he knew at 
Tudu (Warrior Island). Tudu lay to the north, so he chose to go to Tudu. 
He would have to avoid the big reef, Tidiu (Dungeness Reef), and he 
would do this by going first to Garboi (Arden Island). When the early 
morning tide began to flow east, he would leave Garboi and be caught by 
the strong current, Magani, which would shoot him along to Wipain, 
the small reef between Zegei (Dungeness Island) and Tudu. When the tide 
turned and began to flow west, he would be taken by Magani straight to 

And that is exactly what Dugama did: he made use of tides and currents 
and fetched Tudu the day after his departure from Utu. 

Dugama entered the swampy passage which separates the main part of 
Tudu, where the people lived, from the smaller part of the island, Magi 
Tudu, which was uninhabited, and landed at Manmura, where there was 
a grove of coconuts. There he lay down in the grass to rest, but with no 
thought of sleeping, for Tudu was an island of fierce, fighting men who 
never permitted a samp to land and survive. 

Presently he heard the sound of boys' voices. Parting the grass, he saw 
ten big boys and one small boy at target play on the beach. They were 
tossing something up into the air and throwing their spears at it as it fell. 
Dugama threw a coconut out to the beach. The small boy saw it first and 
said: "That's my coconut." He ran to get it, but was quickly overtaken by 
the others. A big boy named Kuida reached it first and had just bent to 
pick it up when Dugama left his hiding place in the grass and began to run 
towards him. The boys who had been left behind in the chase for the 
coconut saw Dugama and shouted a warning to Kuida: "Kuida, sarupl" 
But Kuida took no notice and squatted down to break the coconut open 
with a stone. Dugama grabbed him and beat him until he collapsed on the 

Kuida's companions ran away as fast as they could, back to their fathers 
at the village, and told the story of Kuida and the samp. The men of Tudu 
armed themselves with bows and arrows and gabagaba and began to hunt 
for the castaway. 

Dugama knew very well what would happen when the men of Tudu 
learned of his presence on their island. Showing himself to the boys and 
beating Kuida had not been reckless stupidity, but part of a calculated plan 
by which he hoped to establish quick contact with his friends and thus 


obtain the help which would speed him on his way home to Dauan. By 
using his wits he intended to elude the men who were hunting him and 
gain an opportunity to attract the attention of his friends at a time when 
they were apart from the rest. Right now, however, it was urgent that he 
find a safe hiding place, for already the men of Tudu would be on the way 
to Manmura. So he swam out to a rock called Pagaral Urui. There was a 
hole in it facing seawards, one big enough to hold a man standing upright. 

The men of Tudu searched for the sarup until dark and could not find 
him, so they went to the kod to talk things over — all, that is, except a man 
name Musu. 

Believing that the hunt for him would not be resumed until morning, 
Dugama swam in from Pagaral Urui and climbed a pandanus tree, where 
he settled down to rest in a fork between branch and trunk. And there 
Musu caught up with him, having picked up the tracks which led from the 

At first Musu did not realize that Dugama was in the pandanus tree. 
Temporarily he lost the trail which he had been following. He did not 
think to look up and so wasted time trying to find it in the grass and scrub 
about. Then he decided that there was only one place where the sarup 
could be — in the pandanus tree. He came back, glanced up — and saw the 

Dugama glared down at Musu, tensed to meet Musu's reaction. When 
'Musu fitted an arrow to his bow and aimed at him, Dugama yelled: 
"Stop! I'll come down. Wait till I'm on the ground to kill me." By this 
ruse, Dugama gained time enough to climb down the pandanus tree, throw 
himself at Musu, and grab hold of him. He lifted Musu above his head, 
squeezed the breath from his body and threw him down hard on the 
ground. Using Musu's bamboo knife, he nicked Musu's face from ear to 
ear and from forehead to chin and afterwards broke Musu's arrows into 
many small pieces. Finally, he shoved Musu's body into soft sand, and then 
he swam back to Pagaral Urui. 

Later that night Musu recovered sufficiently to walk to the kod, but 
before he went inside the wall of dry coconut fronds, he rubbed his face 
with burnt husks of coconuts to cover up the cuts made by Dugama. The 
men in the kod were not deceived for an instant. "What happened to you?" 
they said. "A crocodile nearly got me," Musu told them. The men were 
disbelieving and laughed. "It wasn't a small sarup, eh?" they joked. So 
Musu told them the full story of his encounter with Dugama. After 
lengthy discussion it was decided to wait for daylight and then continue 
the search for the sarup. 

In the morning, Dugama's friends — the two brothers — went fishing in 
their canoe. From his hiding place in Pagaral Urui, Dugama saw them 


5. During the dry season of the year, 
Tudu often ran short of drinking 
water, which had to be fetched from 
neighbouring islands. Long, thick 
lengths of bamboo — obtained from 
New Guinea — were used for carrying 
the water. 

poling their way through the tall reeds of the swampy passage near 
Manmura and come in his direction. He had recognized his friends, but he 
did nothing to attract their attention until they were very close to Pagaral 
Urui, but on the landward side of it. "Pssssssss!" hissed Dugama. The elder 
brother said to the younger: "Why did you make a noise?" The younger 
brother denied having done so. Dugama signalled again: "Ch-ch-ch-ch- 
ch!" Convinced by then that someone was hiding nearby, the elder brother 
poled round to the seaward side of Pagaral Urui. "Dugama! Dugama, are 
you the samp?" he cried. 

Dugama told his friends all that had happened since his canoe capsized 
and sank off Bourke Island. "Will you help me?" he asked. "Will you find 
a way to help me reach my home?" The brothers agreed and told him 
what they would do. 

They would lengthen their anchor rope so that their canoe would drift 
out from the beach with the tide that night. They would put into the canoe 
a mat sail, food, and a baler-shell full of live coals. Dugama must stay 
hidden inside Pagaral Urui until dark and then come in with the tide like 
a fish, only using his feet to steer him — no movement of his arms or 
splashing must be seen from the shore. "For," said the elder brother, 
"they'll all be keeping a sharp lookout tonight. You beat that boy badly — 
he's still very poorly." 

That night the brothers decided that only one of them should go to the 
canoe and meet Dugama : if both went, it would be said after Dugama's 
escape became known and their canoe was found to be missing that they 
had helped the samp. So the elder brother went to the canoe, while the 
younger stayed behind, pretending to look for the samp. 

Dugama was waiting in the canoe when his friend arrived. "Go a long 
way out before you put up the sail," whispered the friend, "and keep the 
fire hidden until you are nearly at Zegei (Dungeness Island). I'll go in to 
the beach now and pull out the anchor." Presently the canoe began to 
drift away from Tudu. 

When the men at Tudu saw fire off Zegei, they immediately understood 
that the samp had got away. They looked to see which canoe was missing, 
and then they accused Dugama's friends of aiding and abetting him; but 
there was no proof, and the brothers lied convincingly. 

On fetching Zegei, Dugama ran his canoe into some mangroves, where 
it was effectively screened, and slept in it until late afternoon. He woke to 
see a canoe approaching. 

On board it were a man and five women who were on their way back 
to Tudu with a load of water 5 from Damud (Dalrymple Island). It was their 
intention to rest at Zegei before making the final run home. They drove a 
mangrove pole into the mud dangerously close to Dugama's retreat. Thus 


anchored, they prevented Dugama's escape during the night. At sundown 
the man made a shelter for the women with the mat sail, and presently all 
on board slept. 

Dugama swam to their anchor stick and pulled it out of the mud. The 
Tudu canoe began to drift. Dugama swam beside it, keeping pace with it. 

One of the women stirred — the wind was coming from the wrong 
quarter. "Wake up!" she shouted. "We're adrift!" The man rubbed the 
sleep from his eyes, stood up and went to examine the anchor rope. 
Holding on to the side of the canoe with one hand, Dugama struck the 
man with the other and pulled him into the water. Each of the women 
came in turn to find out what was going on. Dugama treated every one 
of them as he had treated the man. Then he swam back to his own canoe, 
cleared the mangroves, and ran for lama (Yam Island). 

Meanwhile his victims clambered aboard their canoe. The women said 
to the man: "Go and find out who tricked us. He must be still there in the 
mangroves." The man made the excuse that his shoulder was still sore from 
the blow he had received and urged the women to go. "No," said the 
women, "you're a man, you should go first." And so they argued, back 
and forth, until Dugama was well on the way to lama, and they could see 
his sail. It was too late then to do anything about their tormentor so they 
sailed to Tudu. 

Dugama was afraid. The encounter at Zegei had delayed his departure 
from that island ; it was nearly daylight ; there was no chance of landing at 
lama before the people stirred; Ausa of lama was said to have speared 
every sarup who had ever cast up at his island since he became a man. His 
only chance lay, Dugama thought, in sinking his canoe some distance from 
the edge of lama's home reef and swimming in. 

By doing this, Dugama reached the shore without being seen by Ausa 
and ran across the island to Tura. But there he was seen by women who 
had been sent by Ausa to pluck wongai. "Sarup!" they yelled, and they ran 
away to give the alarm to Ausa. Dugama ran to the beach at the foot of 
Tura, pushed a log into the water, and headed for Mukar (Cap Island). 

He was able to spell at Mukar for a while — no people lived there — but 
he took to the water again at sunset. He reached Gebar (Two Brothers 
Island) just before daybreak and landed, but within a very short time he 
was seen by a woman who was digging up yams. She ran away immedi- 
ately to tell her husband about the sarup, so Dugama had very little time 
in which to hide. He chose to run out across the reef and shelter inside a 
rock — similar to Pagaral Urui at Tudu. 

In the afternoon a man in a small fishing canoe came close to this rock. 
"Pssssss!" hissed Dugama. The man started. "Psssssss!" Dugama hissed 
again. The man poled round the rock to see who was inside it. Dugama 


said: "Good friend, save me. I am Dugama. Dauan is my home. Will you 
lend me your canoe?" 

Now the man was terrified of Dugama who, by this time, after all the 
hardships and exposure that he had endured, presented a truly dreadful 
appearance. So afraid was he of what Dugama would do to him if he 
refused, that he agreed and told Dugama to come in and get the canoe after 
dark. Dugama would find it ready for his journey. And as the friendly 
brothers at Tudu had advised Dugama, so now this man counselled him 
not to let his fire show until the beach at Gebar could no longer be seen 
from the canoe. 

Late that night, the people on Gebar saw the fire with which Dugama 
signalled his escape to them. 

Nothing now lay between Dugama and his island, Dauan, but he knew 
he would have to convince his people that he was a man, not a markai. 
How to do it occupied his mind the whole night long. 

At Sapul Maza, a small reef not far from Gawa Giz, the northern tip of 
Dauan, Dugama abandoned the canoe and swam ashore. Then he climbed 
the hill at Gawa Giz and, keeping to high ground, ran along the island 
until he reached the well behind the village, Buli. There he climbed a tree 
and kept himself hidden amongst the leaves until his wife came to fetch 
water. As she bent down to fill her containers, he showed his face so that 
it was reflected in the well. "Dugama! Are you a ghost?" the woman 
gasped. Dugama tried to reassure her that he was not a ghost, that he was 
not a markai, but her flesh-and-blood husband. She did not believe him 
and ran back to the village. All the people ran to the well and, when 
Dugama came down the tree, surrounded him. 

Dugama talked to his people. He told them everything. "Dugama," 
they said when he had finished, "we are sad. We are sorry that you 
suffered so much." But they could not bring themselves to believe that 
he was a man. 

So Dugama ordered his fighting gear to be brought to him. He put on 
his head-dress and boar's tusks and stood before his people, fully armed. 
He spoke to them again: "You say I am dead. You say I am a markai. 
Stand up and fight me. I tell you I am a man, Dugama. I swam from 
Bourke Island to Aurid; from Aurid to Iarpar; from Iarpar to Utu; from 
Utu to Garboi; from Garboi to Tudu. I outwitted the people of Tudu and 
lama and Gebar. Could you do that? I am Dugama, and Dauan is my 

No one had anything to say. One after the other, every man on Dauan 
went to Dugama and scraped Dugama's palm with his fingernails. 


story from 

WARABER Sue Island 

Bu shells at Waraber arranged around the 
spot at which skulls collected in former 
times have since been buried 


[Told by Daniel Pearson at Coconut 
Island, 8 March 1967] 

Long ago, when the island of Waraber was much bigger than it is today 
and the people had their homes at Gibutal Pad, 1 there lived a man named 
Sagerwazer. He was big and strong and possessed magical powers which 
he used whenever he had a mind to. 

Very early one morning, before sunrise in fact, he decided to go for a 
walk. So he told his friends about it and then set out alone for Kiaugud at 
the western end of the island. Try as he might, when he got there he could 
think of nothing to do. 

Suddenly the idea of cutting off his head and magically rejoining it to 
his body flashed into his mind. At once he walked down to the beach and 
cut off his head. His body dropped to the sand. His head, however, fell 
into the sea and began to intone: 

Sagerwazer wazer (o) 
Ngana inu ngana (o) 
Bauana (o) sikana (o) 
Gud malaika gud (o) 
Sagerwazer wazer (o). 

(Here am I, Sagerwazer, 
Wave-foam fills my mouth, 
Sagerwazer-wazer. O.) 

Then it glided away from the shore. 

When it reached the sandbank in front of the village, it skirted along it 
to the outer edge of the reef and swept east with the flowing tide. It passed 
Iamul Kula, the rock where fish called iamul abound, and was well on 
the way to Dual Pad as the sun came up out of the sea. But beyond Dual 
Pad stretched the open sea, and afraid to abandon the protection of the 
reef that encircled Waraber, at this point, regretfully, the head turned back. 

It had rounded the tip of the sandbank and was gliding in to Kiaugud, 
when it felt the frantic attraction exerted by the body on the beach striving 
to recapture its head. Faster and faster the head was drawn through the 
water, until it met its body with a thud. 

Sagerwazer got to his feet and strode back to Gibutal Pad a new man. 
He swelled with pride, for to have cut off his head and successfully rejoined 
it to his body proved that his magical powers were extraordinarily great. 

He was awake at first bird call the following day. For a time he lay 1. East of the present-day village. 


Landtman in his Folk-Tales of the Kiwai 
Papuans (Helsingfors, 1917), pp. 436-37, 
gives a tale, "The Man Who Took Off 
His Head and Played with It in the Sea", 
which he obtained at Mawata (on the 
Papuan mainland). The setting of this 
story is Saibai. 

I found no one at Saibai who knew 
Landtman's tale, but did record the tale, 
"Kasakuik" (Only-head), of a living head 
which had no body. 

It is of interest, perhaps, that Daniel 
Pearson, who told the story of Sager- 
wazer, heard it from an old man of 
Waraber who had married a woman of 

restless, then he crept from his bed. No one was stirring in the village when 
he set out for Kiaugud, where he again cut off his head. 

Sagerwazer wazer (o) 
Ngana inu ngana (o) 
Bauana (o) sikana (o) 
Gud malaika gud (o) 
Sagerwazer wazer (o), 

intoned the head, eager to be on its way, for, as before, it had fallen into 
the sea when its body dropped to the sand. 

It travelled faster than it had the previous day. The sandbank, Iamul 
Kula, and Dual Pad were soon left behind as, without a qualm, it forsook 
the shelter of the home reef and ventured out into the open sea. 

Sagerwazer's absence was noted when the village woke to life, but the 
people felt no concern, assuming him to be busy about his own affairs. 
Nevertheless, as the morning wore on and there was still no sign of him, 
his brother began to worry. Towards mid-day he searched for Sager- 
wazer's footprints, found them, and followed them west to the beach 
below Kiaugud. 

He was utterly bewildered. There was nothing to indicate the presence 
of strangers at Waraber ; there had been nothing unusual in the behaviour 
of any of the people at Gibutal Pad ; the sand all around was clean and 
unmarked — yet there lay the headless body of Sagerwazer. He threw him- 
self upon it and wept ; then, raising it to his shoulders, he carried it away 
and buried it. 

The head, which had continued all the while to travel further and 
further from Waraber, began to feel sick and unhappy. When waves 
smacked angrily at its face, it realized that the tide had turned and was 
taking it west now instead of east as was the case earlier in the day. 

At its last glance backward the island had seemed to it no bigger than a 
kusu (the shell of the dry coconut used to carry water) fast sinking into the 
sea. From the crest of the next wave only the trees that grew at Waraber 
remained above the horizon. 

When the tide turned, the head raced towards home in a flurry of foam. 
Arrived at Dual Pad it skimmed along the water at the edge of the reef, 
passed Iamul Kula, and swept round the point of the sandbank. As it raced 
in to Kiaugud, expecting each moment to be drawn to the beach, instead, 
it felt nothing — nothing at all. This way and that it sped, in a frenzy to 
become one with its body. 

Small fish called daram began to nibble at the tissues inside the head and 
it could not dislodge them. It began to sink, water bubbling in and out at 
its lips. Presently it was swallowed by a big fish. 


stories from the 



stories from 

UGAR steph ens Island 


[Told by Ned Stephen at Stephens Island, 16 June 1966 

One day, Badi walked from his home at Apro along the big sandbank 
which extends far out across the home reef. He saw a fish called sabei 1 and 
speared it. 

This fish was one which was new to Badi, and he did not know if it 
was edible. So he cut pieces from it and fed them to a black reef heron 
(kaubet) and a white reef heron (sir). He watched the birds carefully. They 
did not die from eating sabei; therefore, he thought it safe for him to eat 
the rest of the fish, and he cooked it and ate it. He found it good. 

Badi thought: "I shall go again tomorrow and spear another of these 
fish." And at low tide the following day he went out on the sandbank and 
again speared a sabei. 

Now, in spearing the sabei, Badi drove its companions out to deep water. 
They never returned to the shallow water and pools of the fringing home 
reef: henceforth, sabei lived only in the blue sea outside. 

Badi turned into a bonao, a big brain coral 2 (which may still be seen). 
The black reef heron and the white reef heron, to which he fed pieces of 
the first sabei he speared, turned to stone at Apro, close by the stones of 
the fireplace on which he cooked his portion of the strange new fish 
with the spike on its head. 

1. Sabei (or bologor), unicorn fish, Naso 

2. Platygyra lamellina. 



APRO [Told by Ned Stephen at Stephens Island, 16 June 1966] 

1. There are many stone fish-traps on 
the fringing reef of Stephens Island. 
They are similar to those at Mer, 
Dauar, Waier, and Erub, where their 
construction is attributed to the 
brothers, Kos and Abob of Mer. 

Long ago there was a big snake which lived inside a cave at Apro. One 
day it crawled out over the reef. It was so big that when its head arrived at 
Warwaridog its tail was still at Apro. 

When the men of Warwaridog saw the snake's head, they struck it 
with their stone-headed clubs and severed it from its body. 

The snake turned to stone. It became a stone fish-trap (sai). 1 


LAMAR [Told by Ned Stephen at Stephens Island, 16 June 1966] 

Formerly, the people of Ugar used sometimes to load their canoes with 
food and water and go and stay at the neighbouring island of Zapker for 
a few days. Once, just before the canoes left for Zapker, one of the men 
quarrelled with his wife, a woman named Zub. She ran away and hid in 
the scrub, and the party sailed without her. 

Zub, now alone on Ugar, dug in her garden for yams and took them 
to her home at Wagmet. At mid-afternoon she roasted them and ate them, 
and then she began to worry about how to get through the night. She was 
afraid that lamar (ghosts) might visit Ugar and find her if she stayed in her 
house, so she worked out a plan which would deceive the lamar — should 
they come — into thinking that there was no one at all on the island. 

Zub dug a hole and buried the ashes of her fire in it, and afterwards built 
a sleeping platform for herself at the top of a meker (the wild almond tree 
of Torres Strait). 1 She was already seated on the platform at sunset, when 
she saw a canoe approaching from Maizab Kaur (Bramble Cay). She shook 
1. Terminalia catappa. Its popular name witn f ear > f° r the canoe was filled with lamar — she recognized them as the 
is "the Fiji almond". ghosts of people whom she had previously known. 


The lamar carried their belongings ashore at Wagmet, lit a bright fire, 
and before long began to dance in its glare, singing a tap 2 as they danced: 

Perper turidua perper (ai) 
Ki asamare ki asamare. 

(Quick! Be quick! 

We will put out the light.) 

From time to time they struck the ground with the piru 1 that they held. 

During a lull in the dancing, they wafted air to their nostrils with the 
piru and, in so doing, caught the smell of a living person. "There is a 
human close by," they said. 

Immediately, all the lamar began to search for the human. They went 
into Zub's house and even prodded the wall and the roof with their piru, 
but they found no one, so they resumed their dancing. 

Later on, still unconvinced that there was not a human on the island, 
they went to another village, Aumet, and searched it. Laughing, whistling, 
hitting the ground with their piru, the lamar visited every village, right 
round the island. When they arrived back at Wagmet, they loaded their 
canoes and set sail for Maizab Kaur. By then it was almost dawn. 

At daylight, Zub left her platform at the top of the meker tree and 
climbed down to the ground. She went at once to Wagin Paikai and lit a 
fire in order to attract the attention of the people at Zapker. When her 
husband reached Naiger Pek later in the day, she swam out to meet him. 

Zub told her husband all that had happened during the night, naming 
the lamar who had visited Ugar. Her husband said that he, also, had known 
some of the lamar as men before they became ghosts. 

Zub accompanied her husband to Zapker, where she told everyone 
about the lamar who had come to Ugar from Maizab Kaur. At the end of 
her story, she taught the people the song to which the lamar had danced : 

Perper turidua perper (ai) 
Ki asamare ki asamare. 

2. Tap, a song which is intoned on a 
single note. 

3. Piru, the lower half of the stem of a 
coconut palm frond. 



1. Bazgiz is the name given to the 
clusters of tubers which grow as off- 
shoots from the parent tuber of the 
perennial yams called ketai and kakid- 
gaba. The clusters of tubers produced 
by ketai and kakidgaba represent 
wealth. One may take one part at a 
time throughout the season, and the 
plant will reproduce a new cluster 
the following year, and the next, and 
the next — as the ketai and kakidgaba 
were to humans, so the clamshells 
were to the spirit women who lived 
under the sea. 

2. Not far from the village, Kupei 

3. Memsus, soft coral, of different varie- 
ties and colours. Some is as thick as a 
finger, some is hair-fine. Murray 
Islanders also give the name memsus 
to the Poisonous Anemone (Rhodactis 

4. Eneo, the wild plum of Torres Strait. 

DAOMA KES [Told by Ned Stephen and Andrew Stephen 

at Stephens Island, 16 June 1966] 

A man who lived at Kupei Seriam on the island of Ugar was visited by two 
spirit women when he was working in his garden one day. He made love 
to them. Afterwards, the women returned to their home under the sea in 
Daoma Kes (Crab Passage). 

The man went to his garden again the following day and was again 
visited by the two spirit women. They invited him to go and live with 
them at their place which, they said, was much better than his. To this the 
man agreed. So, the two spirit women leading the way, the three walked 
out along the sandbank called Mopgir and went down into the deep water 
at the edge of the reef. 

The women took him to an undersea coconut grove, inside which were 
giant clams which they called bazgiz. 1 This was their home in Daoma Kes. 
It was very beautiful. 

When the man of Kupei Seriam failed to return from his garden at the 
end of the day, the people of Ugar began to search for him. When it 
grew dark, they lit bundles of dry coconut fronds and carried them to light 
up their way around the island. They searched for him everywhere and, 
not finding him, spoke insultingly of the lamar (ghost or ghosts) who had 
spirited him away. 

An old lamar woman who lived on the reef at Warkes 2 overheard them 
and went straight to Daoma Kes, where she told the spirit women what 
was being said by the people of Ugar and counselled that they send the 
man back to his own home. 

And this they did, taking him by the same route as they had come and 
leaving him at Naiger Pek with a present of food which they had brought 
with them from their garden under the sea. They then took the form of 
birds and sat chattering on the branch of a nearby tree. 

Within a very short time, the people of Ugar arrived at Naiger Pek and 
saw the missing man by the light of their flaring torches. He was standing 
on the path which led round the island to Kupei Seriam, clamshells and 
coral and memsus 1 at his feet. When the people came close to him, they 
noticed that an evil odour came from him; they asked him where he had 
been, but he could not speak — his jaws were locked tight. So they took him 
home, bathed and anointed his body until it was clean and sweet-smelling, 
and applied heated leaves of eneo 4 to each side of his face. 


Next morning he could talk, and then he told everyone of his visit to 
the home of the spirit women of Daoma Kes, and how their present to 
him of yams and fruit had turned to coral and clamshells and memsus at 
the moment of their leaving him at Naiger Pek and becoming birds. 


A RAINBOW [Told by Henry Stephen at Stephens Island, 

16 June 1966] 

Once there was a man of Ugar who had a spirit wife. For some time the 
pair met only in his garden, where they worked side by side, but when 
she gave birth to a son, the man took her to live in his home in the village. 
There she kept his house clean and tidy and cooked his meals for him. 
Neither she nor the child, however, was ever seen by the people of the 
village, even when the child grew old enough to walk. 

The village people found it hard to understand how this man who, as 
they believed, had no wife, yet had a house which always appeared cared- 
for and himself had the demeanour of a married man. 

But as time went by the man began to worry. The spirit woman who 
was his wife had forbidden him to betray her presence in his home, 
threatening him with serious trouble if he so much as breathed a word of 
her existence. And there was his son, daily growing bigger and stronger, 
who would surely escape from the house one day. When that happened, 
his marriage would no longer be secret. 

The man decided to enlist the help of his friends. "Come to my house 
and frighten this lamar wife of mine into leaving me. Help me to keep my 
son and to give him freedom to play with the village children," he begged 

A few days later, the friends armed themselves with bows and arrows 

and kusbager 1 and came and stood outside his house, where they made such 

a din that the spirit woman ran away. Thereafter, until they judged that 

there was no danger of the spirit woman returning to steal the child, they 

kept a daily watch over the house. , 

r , , . . . . . 1- Kusbager is a single-pointed spear 

In time, the man forgot the threats made by his spirit wife. {hager) made from the wood of the 

Then, one day, a storm with a rainbow inside it approached the village. tree called kus. 


Heavy rain fell, and as the children left their play and ran to their homes 
for shelter, one end of the rainbow alighted on the son of the spirit woman. 
The watching villagers saw the boy's feet leave the ground and heard his 
screams as he was taken into the rainbow. They never saw him again. 
Everyone understood that the rainbow was the spirit wife who had re- 
turned and punished her husband for his betrayal of her existence to his 


stories from 

ERUB Darnley Island 


KAUR [Told by Harry Captain at Thursday Island, 17 March 1967] 
(The Origin of Bramble Cay) 

Keriba ged i au muris ge irdi. 
Ki derserda irdidarda. 
Ki nebewe ged im. 
Naiger barki, ziai barki, 
Kerbi derepda. No bakui. 

Wa pe kerbi dikaireta. 

Keriba omar wabim. 

Nade wa uridli, Paiwer, Rebes, 


(Our home is far away. We [have] laid down [the soil] and put it straight 
[made the sandbank firm and strong]. We set out on [the return journey 
to our] home. The north-east wind is blowing. [Now] the south-west 
wind blows. We are caught [by it]. We stand [without moving at that 

You left us. We sorrow for you. Where are you Paiwer, Rebes, and 
the men who went with you?) 

(Modern Darnley Island song) 

According to my informant, Harry 
Captain, the Meuram people of Erub 
had a sacred stone, nam kerem (turtle 
head), which they kept at Bariadog. 
They worshipped it, and in return it 
provided the people of Erub with rich 
turtle seasons. 

Erub was envied by the neighbouring 
islands, Mer and Ugar, for the great 
number of turtles which came to its 
shores. Afraid, on that account, that nam 
kerem might be stolen, the Meuram 
people of Erub decided to build a sand- 
bank as a hiding-place for their sacred 
stone. This led to the creation of Maizab 
Kaur (i.e. Bramble Cay). 

[Maizab is the name of a reef fish, the 
diagonal-banded sweetlips, Plectorhynchus 
goldmanni (Bleeker); kaur, a small island. 
Bramble Cay was one of the first places 
in Torres Strait for which an Island name 
was collected.] 

Paiwer, leader of the Meuram people, sent word to Rebes, leader of the 
Peidu people at Keriam, asking him to help build a sandbank which would 
be a safe place for nam kerem. 

Paiwer and his small son Burwak, and Rebes and the men who are 
remembered as the Made-urkup, met at Bikar on the northern side of 
Erub. There they dug soil which they placed in mats, and then they waded 
out into the sea with it. After they had gone a long way to the north, they 
called back to the men 1 who were watching them from the hill at Bariadog : 
"Aka nade ki andinane? Ge au? 2 (Where are we going to lay it down? 
Here?)" "Mena igandane! Mena igandane! Keniba uzen unken a keniba imut 
unken! (Carry it further! Carry it further! [We have the] strength [to 
reach it with] our paddles and poling-sticks [by canoe]!)" they were told. 

From a long way further to the north they called again: "Aka nade ki 
andinane? Ge au?" "Mena igandane! Mena igandane! Keniba uzen unken a 
keniba imut unken!" came the reply from Bariadog. 

1. The men who watched from Baria- 
dog are called by most people today 
"the stone men", the Kobripatri. 
They identify them with a number 
of crouching, hunched figures, rudely 
carved from stone at Erub. 

2. The calls from Paiwer and Rebes and 
from the men at Bariadog are said to 
be the only examples extant of the 
original language of Erub, which was 
a dialect of Meriam. The Erubam 
appear to have used "n" where the 
Meriam used "r". 


At each of the places from which 
Paiwer and Rebes called to the men 
at Bariadog, some soil is said to have 
fallen from the mats in which it was 
carried and formed a small reef. The 
reefs thus formed are in turn: Deur 
(Brown Reef), Kep (Laxton Reef) 
and Tot (simply marked "coral" on 

On the map, this is marked "Black 

Again, still further from Erub, Paiwer and Rebes asked for permission 
to lay down the soil from Bikar; yet again they were ordered to carry it 
further. 3 Not until they had journeyed so far from Erub that it looked no 
bigger than a coconut floating on top of the sea did they receive the 
command: "Ge tindinane gel (There lay it down. There!)" 

Now, at last, they built the sandbank for nam kerem. They made it 
strong and firm. 

Rebes and the Made-urkup set out first to return to Erub. For a while, 
naiger, the north-east wind, blew gently. Presently, however, ziai blew 
hard from the south-west, and the way was blocked by high seas. Rebes 
and the men who were with him could not go on and they turned to stone. 
The rocks which they became are called Karem Korsor. 4 

Paiwer and Burwak remained on the sandbank and they, too, turned to 
stone. You may see them today. Paiwer still stands with his small son on 
his shoulders. 

The men at Bariadog waited in vain for Paiwer and Rebes and the Made- 
urkup to return. Finally, they, too, turned to stone. 


[Told by Jimmy Idagi at Thursday Island, 20 March 1967] 

1. Stone fish-trap. 

One day, Id of Mer sent three manned canoes to Erub. 

They arrived in the afternoon, but the Meriam did not beach until after 
nightfall, when they pulled in at Wadaiam, dragged their canoes to a safe 
hiding place, and then took cover in thick scrub. The tide receded, laying 
bare the home reef of Erub ; the whole time the Meriam neither moved 
nor spoke in their place of concealment. 

Late that night, at dead low water, Koreg of Zaum (an inland village) 
went to the reef to see if fish had been trapped in the sai. 1 Eventually he 
came to Wadaiam. There he found that many fish had been trapped in the 
pool at the pocket of the stone fence and he began to spear them. 

The Meriam heard the sound of water splashing in the sai and said : 
"There are fish jumping out there. Let us go and spear them." They walked 
down to the beach and out across the reef, talking as they went. 


Koreg heard their voices and froze. When he knew that they were 
coming straight towards him, he jumped over the wall of the sai and 
crouched outside it to find out who the men were. Meriam! Koreg took 
to his heels. 

The Meriam chased him. One of them speared Koreg in the belly; but 
he did not kill him outright, and Koreg escaped. The Meriam turned back 
then, took the fish from the pocket of the sai at Wadaiam and returned to 
their hiding place. 

Despite his wound, Koreg ran all the way home to Zaum and reported 
the presence of Meriam on Erub. By this time, however, his bowels had 
come out through the hole in his belly. No sooner had he given his 
message than he fell down dead. 

Early next morning, the head man of Zaum sent a message to Rebes, 
telling him what had happened and informing him that the Meriam canoes 
were still at Wadaiam. Rebes sent word back to the head man of Zaum, 
telling him to lead his men round by the eastern side of the island ; he, 
Rebes, would lead his men round by the western side ; they would join 
forces at Wadaiam that night and kill all the Meriam except one who would 
have to be spared to take the news back to Mer. 

And so it befell, exactly as Rebes had planned. The Meriam who was 
permitted to escape ran into the scrub and hid in it until he contrived one 
day to steal a canoe and make his way back to Mer. 

When Id received the news of the massacre, he called together his men 
and told them to prepare to fight at Erub. As soon as they had armed 
themselves and loaded the canoes, the war party sailed. Id's plan was to 
anchor at Seu 2 until the sun went down and complete the journey after 
dark, when a secret landing could be effected. 

While they waited at Seu in the afternoon, the tide was low, so to pass 
the time the men walked about on the sandbank throwing spears at the 
husks of dry coconuts. "This is how we will spear the Erubam," they 
boasted. 3 

They were seen by the people of Erub, who sneered: "What fools those 
Meriam are! Chasing fish on a dry sandbank!" 

The Meriam landed at Mogor in the dark, hid their canoes, and made 
camp in the scrub. At the end of three days they were still hiding at the 
same spot, because they did not know where Rebes was living at that time. 
Rebes, more than any other man at Erub, had incurred Id's anger. Rebes 
was a warrior and leader of great renown. It was he who had first to be 
dealt with. 

On the fourth day, Id said to his men: "We will move to the western 
side of Erub and search for Rebes there." So they poled and paddled to 
Bikar and, after hiding their canoes, made another camp in the scrub. 

2. A sandbank between Mer and Erub. 

3. One informant said that this sand- 
bank derives its name from the 
Meriam war-cry ("Seu! Seu! Seu!"), 
which was used while the men 
practised spearing. 


Put (decorative armband worn on upper 


Kadik (bracer, 
or armguard) 

4. Harry Captain said that Rebes had 
five wives. 

5. This point is known as Kerem Paur 
{kerem, head; paur, skin). It was given 
this name because the heads taken 
during the massacre described in this 
story were skinned there. 

Harry Captain said that the reason why 
Id sent his canoes to Erub was to obtain 
possession of nam kerem, the sacred turtle 
stone which belonged to the Meuram 
people of that island. He also said that 
when Id returned to Mer, after killing 
Rebes, he took with him nam kerem, 
which has remained at Mer ever since. 
A few years ago it was cemented to the 
top of a small cairn in front of the Council 


For some time, Rebes had been crippled with rheumatism in both legs. 
He and his two wives 4 were living in a secluded cave at Kotor, close to 
the summit, on the seaward side, of the hill called Waus, overlooking 

The night that the Meriam slept at Bikar, Rebes had a premonition of 
impending disaster. At daylight he ordered one wife to make a fire to 
warm his aching joints and sent the other to the top of Waus to find out 
if there were Meriam canoes in the bay below. The woman saw none, so 
she returned to Kotor and told her husband that his fears were groundless. 

Early that morning, two women who had accompanied the warriors 
of Mer to Erub went for a swim in the sea. Suddenly, they saw smoke go 
up at the top of Waus. They called out to the men — who had stayed 
hidden in the scrub — and pointed to it. "Nonsense," said the men, "that's 
not smoke, that's morning mist." 

Presently another puff of smoke went up at the same spot on Waus. 
Seeing it, the women again called to the men. This time Id recognized it 
for what it was and immediately ordered his men to arm themselves and 
follow him in atei (three rows, the attacking formation). In that manner, 
Id and his men advanced up the hill to Kotor. 

Boz (a tough-stemmed vine) screened the entrance to the cave in which 
the crippled Rebes lay helpless on his back. Id signalled to his men to stand 
back out of sight and, parting the vines, called through them to Rebes : 
"I thought you were my friend; yet, when I sent men across to Erub, you 
killed them." 

Rebes seized the bundle of spears on the ground beside him and flung 
it at Id, but the latter warded them off by pulling together the canes of 
boz. Id then entered the cave. Shouting, "Id opnor beizam! (Id, shark from 
the great reef to windward!)," he hurled his kusbager at Rebes, killing him, 
and afterwards removed the warrior's head with his koir (bamboo behead- 
ing-knife). He and his men killed Rebes's wives and beheaded them, too. 

The Meriam returned to Bikar, taking the heads with them. They 
dragged their canoes down into the sea and paddled round to Mogor, 
going ashore at many places on the way. When they saw people, they left 
their canoes to kill them; those whom they killed they beheaded, and the 
heads they placed in the canoes. 

At the stony point 5 at the southern end of the bay of Mogor, Id ordered 
his men to take all the heads ashore and skin and clean them. When this 
had been done the Meriam set sail for home, their canoes piled high with 
Erubam heads. 


Artist Segar Passi 


[Told by Daniel Pau of Darnley Island, 21 June 1966] 

This story is a sequel to the Murray 
Island story "Wakai and Kuskus". 

Two Meuram le (people) from Erub 
(descendants of Paiwer who helped build 
Bramble Cay) were members of the ill- 
fated hunting expedition led by Wakai 
and Kuskus of Mer to Kerged. When the 
party returned from Kerged, it brought 
back water obtained from a pool which 
had been revealed by a small kiriskiris 
bird. The two men from Erub took some 
of it to their home at Keirari and kept it 
in a bu shell which they hung from a tree. 

1. To become a spring of brackish water 
at that place. 

2. Today there is an engine beside it, 
pumping water to many villages on 
Darnley Island. 

While all the people of Keirari were away from their village working in 
their gardens one day, a man named Aib, whose home was at Bumeo, was 
out fishing on the reef. Aib happened to glance towards Keirari and see 
something which glistened in the sunlight at that place. Curious, he went 
to find out what it was. 

From a tree hung a bu shell filled to the brim with water which caught 
the sparkle of the sun as the wind blew. Aib removed the shell from the 
tree and set out for his home with it. He carried it very carefully; never- 
theless, a little water spilled at Ewi. 1 When he reached Bumeo, he drank 
from the shell until he had drained it dry. Then, his belly swollen from 
drinking so much, he lay down in the shade of a tree and fell asleep. 

Later in the day, the people of Keirari returned from their gardens to find 
that the sacred water brought back after the trip to Kerged had been 
stolen. The men followed the tracks of the thief to Bumeo, where they 
saw Aib asleep on the ground. Beside him lay the bu shell from Keirari — 

Furious, one of the men drove his kusbager into Aib's belly, whereupon 
all the water that Aib had drunk that day gushed out from him. 

It became a spring which never goes dry, not even in drought years. 2 



GORARASIASI [Told by Harry Captain at Thursday 

Island, 26 July 1969] 

One day the Samsep and Peidu peoples of Erub went to Wargor for an 
outing. They roasted ketai (a variety of yam) in a fire, and then, after 
scraping away the charred parts, they grated the crusts and floury meal of 
the ketai into tniskor (halves of big clam-shells). To this they added shredded 
coconut 1 and coconut-milk, and, after stirring and beating all together, 
had a rich and delectable mash (mabus), a food which everyone relished. 

By that time the sun was low in the sky, and it was time to go home. No 
one wanted to be abroad after dark. 

Two Samsep men, Didipapa and Gorarasiasi, 2 had furthest to walk, so 
they left first of all. They set out by the bush road for Ina, their village, 
taking with them their share of the mabus in a miskor which Gorarasiasi 
carried on his shoulder, and had not gone very far when they saw a ghost 
blocking their way. Terrified, the two men stood stockstill. So did the 

Gorarasiasi was a very stupid man, a half-wit, but Didipapa was very 
clever, and he nudged his friend and whispered: "Do as I do." Didipapa 
closed his eyes and Gorarasiasi followed suit. When they opened their eyes, 
the ghost shut his. Didipapa and Gorarasiasi watched the ghost and found 
that the ghost kept his eyes closed for the same length of time as they had 
theirs. The moment the ghost opened his eyes, the friends closed theirs, 
and this time they kept them closed for a long while. The second time the 
ghost shut his eyes, Didipapa mouthed "Go!" to his friend and gave him 
a push and Gorarasiasi, silly man, instead of leaving the heavy miskor be- 
hind, took it with him when he tiptoed past the ghost and continued on 
the way to Ina. 

The sun set about the time that the ghost opened his eyes. He saw that 
one of the men was missing. Quickly Didipapa shut his eyes. He kept them 
tight shut for a very long while. Then, no sooner was it the ghost's turn 
to shut his eyes, than Didipapa made a silent dash for it, past the ghost and 
along the path towards the safety of his home at Ina. At Tor — on the hill 
at the back of Ina — he nearly tripped over Gorarasiasi's feet. 

Now Gorarasiasi had had plenty of time to reach Ina. He should have 
been there by the time Didipapa opened his eyes the third time, yet there 
lay the foolish fellow, his head and body in the grass and weskepu (a ground 
creeper) at the side of the path, his feet in the middle of the path beside the 
miskor of mabus. Didipapa kicked him. "Get up! Come on, get up! The 

1. Obtained by scraping with shells 
called kaip. 

2. Gorarasi is a noun compounded from 
gorar (singeing to the point of dis- 
coloration) and asi (pain). Gorarasiasi 
is the adjective formed from gorarasi. 


ghost is close behind me," he told his friend. Gorarasiasi did not move. 
He said: "You go. Don't wait for me. I'm still tired. I'll rest a while longer 
and follow you later." Didipapa ran on alone. 

"Where is Gorarasiasi?" he was asked when he reached Ina. "He's 
probably been taken by a ghost by now," Didipapa told them. "There was 
one close behind me when I passed him at Tor. I tried to get him to come 
with me, but he refused." 

Gorarasiasi was discovered by the ghost soon after Didipapa left Tor. 
The ghost stumbled over the miskor, looked down, and saw Gorarasiasi's 
feet. "What's your name?" asked the ghost. "Gorarasiasi." "Where's your 
friend?" "He passed me. He's home at Ina by now." "Why didn't you go 
home when you had the chance?" "Oh, I wanted to rest. That miskor is 
very heavy." "Well, you're not going to rest any longer. Get up. Go on, 
get up. Pick up the miskor and carry it. You're coming with me now." 
Gorarasiasi shouldered the heavy miskor and followed the ghost. 

The ghost made a bee-line for Zaum. Nor far from his home, he hid 
Gorarasiasi in some scrub and went on alone to ask his companions if he 
might bring Gorarasiasi to join them. When they saw him coming they 
were busy cooking a meal. "Where have you been?" they asked him. 
"I went for a walk," he replied. "You smell bad. You must have touched a 
'ghost' while you were away," the other ghosts said. "I met two," he said. 
The other ghosts smeared him with substances which made him less 
offensive to their noses, though he would have disgusted humans. 

The ghosts kept Gorarasiasi with them for two full days and then 
decided to send him home. On the morning of his departure from Zaum, 
they gave him a present of bananas and yams and asked what he was going 
to do with the miskor he had brought with him. And although the contents 
of the miskor were by this time maggot-ridden and foul-smelling, Gorar- 
asiasi said: "I'll take it with me. It belongs to Didipapa as well as to me. We 
arranged to share it." 

Gorarasiasi and the ghosts set out from Zaum in company and walked 
together as far as Mimur. There the ghosts turned back, afraid lest they be 
seen by the people of the villages. They took with them the fruit and 
vegetables that they had earlier given to Gorarasiasi. 

When Gorarasiasi reached the point between Ina and Isem, he was seen 
by the people of Ina. "Gorarasiasi's coming!" they cried. Gorarasiasi came 
nearer, and then they said: "Go and wash yourself. Throw your mabus to 
the fish in the sea. Rub your body with sand." 

After he had done these things, the people gathered round him and 
listened to his story. "The ghost took me to Zaum," he said. "There are a 
lot of ghosts at that place. Many of them I recognized. They're my friends." 
"That's not surprising," said the people of Ina. "You're silly like them." 



KIKMERMER [Told by Rachel Pilot at Darnley Island, 

18 June 1966] 

Beside the little bay of Irmed, there once lived a woman named Tekei and 
her two daughters, Imermer and Kikmermer. 1 They were pretty girls; 
only, when Imermer spoke she sounded as if she were crying, and when 
Kikmermer spoke, her nose ran. They were Peidu 2 people. 

On the other side of Erub, where the Meuram lived, there was at this 
time a young man named Kiari 3 who stayed with his mother at Kaip. 

Kiari badly wanted a wife, so one day he walked round to the Peidu 
side of the island to look for one and, when he reached Irmed, saw Imermer 
and Kikmermer. He said to himself: "I'll find a way to get them to Kaip, 
and then I'll keep them both and have two wives." 

He pretended to be sick. Tekei, seeing him in that state, took him to her 
home and looked after him well, bringing him roast yams and fish to eat. 
Presently, he told her that he must go back to Kaip and asked if her two 
daughters might accompany him part of the way, because he was still 
feeling far from well; he promised to send them home from Mekik Paikai. 
Tekei consented to this arrangement, and Imermer and Kikmermer set 
out with Kiari. 

When they reached Mekik Paikai, however, Kiari said to the girls: 
"Come a little further with me — as far as Kaiziz — then you may leave me." 
Imermer and Kikmermer went willingly. 

At Kaiziz, Kiari asked them to go on to Sesengab, and at Sesengab he 
asked them to go on to Bikar. His plan was working. The girls were still 
with him at Kemus, where he persuaded them that he must have their help 
if he were to reach the top of the small hill, Serar-urpi. From Serar-urpi 
it was a very short distance only to Kiari Awak, where the Meuram people 
were gathered for a feast that day, but, because Kiari was by now leaning 
on them for support and seemed very ill indeed, Imermer and Kikmermer 
took him the rest of the way. "Mother," Kiari called, "spread mats for 
my two wives!" 

Imermer and Kikmermer looked at each other in alarm — it was news to 
them that they were Kiari's wives. Food was brought to them, and people 
from round about came to stare at them. Kiari was greatly envied by the 
men for having obtained not one wife, but two, both of them young and 
pretty. Shortly afterwards, he had to leave for Bariadog to take part in a 

1. Tekei, the Meriam word for the 
Groper (Promicrops lanceolatus 
[Bloch]). /, tears; mermer, filled. 
Kikmer, mucus from the nose. 

2. There appear to have been four 
named patricians at Erub: Peidu (a 
special term for the kind of womer 
[man-o -war-hawk] which frequents 
the reef outside Peidu territory in 
large numbers) ; Meuram (which 
means, literally, belonging to the 
tree, meur [Barringtonia calyptrata]) ; 
Saisireb (which derives its name from 
5(3i , the stone fish-trap of the Eastern 
Islands) ; and Samsep (this being the 
name of the barnacle-like growth 
seen on logs and bamboo which drift 
down to the Eastern Islands of Torres 
Strait during the north-west season). 
They were exogamous. Each clan 
had its own territorial division. The 
Meuram and Peidu divisions account- 
ed for the greater part of the island, 
the Meuram taking up mostr of the 
eastern half, the Peidu most of the 
western half. Whatever the position 
in the past, today all Meuram claim 
putative descent from a man named 
Paiwer, all Peidu from a man named 
Rebes. (See the story of "Maizab 
Kaur", in this section.) The clan 
totem of the Peidu is the man-o'- 
war-hawk. It is not an ancestor totem. 
The lanog (dying movements) per- 
formed by Peidu people are man-o'- 
war-hawk movements. Saisireb 
people are noted for the fact that 
they eat fish raw. 

3. Or Kaiari. The name was pronounced 
differently at different times, even by 
the same speaker. 


4. Ubar bears small, pungent fruit which 
are soft-fleshed and grey-green when 
ripe. Not the same fruit as the ubar 
of West Torres Strait. 

5. The fruit thrown by Kiari turned to 
stones which are part red, part black. 

6. This rock is at the point of one arm 
of the bay of Irmed. 

ceremony for nam kerem. "Take good care of my wives for me," he said 
to his mother. 

Tears streamed from the girls' eyes. They had no wish at all to be Kiari's 
wives, wanting only to return to their mother at Irmed. Kiari's mother felt 
so sorry for them that when they said they wanted to go into the bushes 
to relieve themselves, even though she knew it to be a ruse on their part 
to enable them to escape, she raised no objection. 

When Kiari arrived back from Bariadog and found his wives gone, he 
ran after them, to catch them and bring them back. From the top of Serar- 
urpi he could see Imermer and Kikmermer running along the beach at 
Kemus, so he plucked fruit from a tree called ubar 4 and threw them at the 
girls. But they were too far away, and the fruit fell to the ground well 
short of them. 5 

Imermer and Kikmermer reached Irmed breathless. As soon as they had 
gasped out their story, Tekei armed herself with a sharp-pointed stick, 
which she threw at Kiari the moment he came close enough. It struck him 
to the ground, at which Imermer and Kikmermer rushed at him and beat 
his head with clamshells until he was dead. Mother and daughters dragged 
his body away to a hole in a rock at the edge of the sea. 6 

Tekei's daughters, Imermer and Kikmermer, turned to stone on the 
beach at Irmed — they are two shiny, black rocks in the sand. 


stories from 

MER Murray Island 

A Meriam wearing the head-dress, dari 

e} 'V ii- 


V- fa)*-**," 

Ji/I i J 3 

Token from Mop 5C5S-J 5er*s T504 

' rejttote* alone woHa of foMropa (soj) 

MER (Murray Island) 

This is a copy of the map we made at Murray Island in February, March, 1967, to fix the location of the place names mentioned in the stories told 
to me by the older men. 

Dagi Gisu and Segar Passi helped to obtain the first rough outline. 
Moses Omey then drew the map as it now appears. 

Sam Passi, Dagi, and Moses indicated the correct position of places and clan divisions. 
Marou checked our work and helped us with information. 

The islands of Waier (at left) and Dauar (at right), photographed from Murray Island 

Dela Mopwali, one of the story-tellers 


GELAM [Told by Dela Mopwali at Murray Island, 21 February 1967] 

The boy Gelam lived with his mother, Atwer, 1 at Bulbul on the island of 
Mua. When he became a youth, his mother bent a bow for him and made 
him some arrows, and from that time he set out from his home every 
morning to spend the day shooting birds. Every afternoon, he used to 
knot the wing-tips of each bird that he had killed during the day, slip the 
birds on to his bow, and carry them back to Bulbul. He gave the lean birds 
to his mother and kept the fat birds for himself. 

Now although Gelam and Atwer had separate cooking fires, Atwer soon 
discovered the difference between the birds that she and her son were 
cooking — Gelam's birds were always fat, hers were always thin — and she 
determined to punish him by frightening him while he was in the bush. 

And this she did. One day, she smeared clay over her face and head, as 
if she were in mourning, stole to the small shelter in which her son 
crouched hiding — waiting for unsuspecting birds to come his way — and 
startled him. Terrified, often stumbling and falling and cutting himself on 
stones, he ran back to Bulbul. 

Atwer, meanwhile, returned home by a faster route than Gelam's and 
quickly washed herself clean in the sea. When Gelam arrived, he found her 
sitting down waiting for him. Atwer asked him what he had done with 
the birds he had shot during the day, to be told that he had left them behind 
when he ran away from a ghost. 

Gelam continued to go to the bush to shoot birds, and, every time he 
went, his mother frightened him by pretending to be a ghost. Then one 
evening he noticed traces of clay in his mother's ears. "Mother," he said 
to himself, "it is you who have been frightening me." 

Next morning, he told Atwer that he was going to shoot birds, but he 
had no intention of doing so. Instead, he cut down a tree called wapad, 
which has very light wood, scraped it into the shape of a dugong, 2 and 
put it into the sea. He found, however, that it was not the kind of dugong 
he wanted: it was far too light and floated on top of the water. So he sent 
it away, saying: "Go, dugong. Go to Mabuiag." 

Another day he cut down a iutarkub (a wild cotton-tree) and from it 
made another dugong which, while heavier than the first, was still too light 
for his needs. "Go, dugong. Go to Badu," he ordered it. 

This is the most popular myth of Torres 

Gelam, creator of the dugong, also 
became the most striking physical feature 
of Murray Island (Mer) — the hill, Gelam 
paser. As one approaches this island, 
Gelam emerges from the sea until he is 
seen clearly as a dugong. From a distance, 
Murray Island is unforgettably, indelibly, 

1. Gelam's mother is always called Usar 
in West Torres Strait. Atwir (n.) 
means "criticism". The cloud and 
mist which sometimes obscure the 
top of Gelam hill on Murray Island 
are called Atwer ira kemur, Atwer's 

2. What follows at this point in the 
story accounts for the origin of 
dugong. Wees Nawia of Kubin (at 
the southern tip of Mua) named four 
different kinds of dugong found in 
Torres Strait, each belonging to the 
region named in this story. 

The dugong of East Torres Strait 
(tnalu dangal) is very big, heavy- 
bodied, and dark in colour. It comes 
once to the surface to breathe and 
then remains underwater for long 
periods (up to an hour) before coming 
up to breathe again. It is difficult to 
harpoon this dugong. 

By contrast, the dugong of West 
Torres Strait are small-bodied and 
light in colour. When these dugong 
breathe, they come to the surface 
three times in fairly quick succession 
and remain close to the surface be- 
tween breaths. The dugong of West 
Torres Strait are said to be better- 
flavoured than those of East Torres 


3. Worn on the left arm to protect it 
from the bow string. 

4. Opinions vary on the islands visited 
by Gelam. Every informant names 
Nagi (Mt. Ernest Island), and lama 
(Yam Island). Some also include Sasi 
(Long Island), Poruma (Coconut 
Island), Masig (Yorke Island), Ugar 
(Stephens Island), and Erub (Darnley 

On yet another day, he fashioned a dugong from garagar tulu (a species 
of bloodwood). When he tried its performance in the sea, this one proved 
nearly, but not quite, heavy enough. "Go, dugong. Go to zei dagam daudai 
(south-side mainland, Australia)," he commanded. 

That night, his father came to him in a dream and told him what he 
must do to find the right kind of wood for a heavy dugong. "Tap the trunk 
of every tree that you see in the bush until you find one that makes the 
sound, 'Pi-i-i-i!' The top of this tree will be thick with busy, twittering 
little black birds (mutil). They will be a further sign to you that you have 
found the right tree." 

Gelam followed his father's instructions and found the tree which had 
been described to him in the dream. From the wood of this tree — baidatn 
tulu (a bloodwood) — he shaped and hollowed out a dugong which per- 
formed as he required of it, submerging itself deep in the water. He got 
inside it and swam about. It suited his every need. So he took it ashore 
and placed inside it good soil and fruit and vegetables and the seeds of 
many trees, and then he went home to his mother. 

In the morning he said to her: "Mother, if you should see a very big 
fish when you go to the reef today, call me. I'll come and spear it." 

No sooner had Atwer gone to the reef with her basket and sharp- 
pointed stick to fish, than Gelam hurried to the dugong that he had made 
the previous day. Inside his armguard (kadik) 1 he placed the seeds and plants 
and soil which he had collected, and then he got inside the dugong and 
swam deep to the place where his mother was standing. There he came to 
the surface and allowed her to see him. "Gelam, come quickly with your 
spear!" called Atwer. 

Gelam swam very close to the edge of the reef and his mother grazed 
his dugong with her pointed stick. He swam away, wheeled, and came 
back to her, opening the mouth of the dugong so that she could see inside 
to her son. "Mother," said Gelam, "you frightened me by pretending to 
be a ghost. You did that not once, but many times. Now I am going far 
away to a place where you will never see me." And with that, he closed 
the mouth of the dugong and swam away. Atwer called him back to her, 
but he would not come. Weeping, she said: "Bakiamu Mer ge, au lewer- 
lewer ged ge, esigemerua (Go and lie down at Mer, an island rich in food)." 

Gelam came to the surface of the water at Nagi and looked back at 
Mua. He saw Atwer, who still stood at the same spot on the reef as when 
he had left her. "If I stay here, my mother will be able to see me and may 
come to visit me," he thought. So he closed up the dugong and swam 
deep to lama. But there, also, he felt himself too close to Mua. He swam to 
many islands, 4 to Sasi, Poruma, Masig, Aurid, Ugar, and Erub, but at none 
of them had he any wish to stay — all were too close to Mua and his mother. 


From Garsao, the big lagoon in the reef of Erub, Gelam saw Mer. 
"That is where I am going to make my home," he said. 

Gelam swam to Mer and lay down beside her, his face to the north-east. 
Naiger, the north-east wind blew hard up his nostrils, so he swung round 
to face south-west. He spat two wada seeds from his mouth, which became 
the islands of Dauar and Waier, and with his left hand he threw out all the 
seeds and plants and soil that he had brought with him from Mua. 5 Then 
he fixed himself firmly in place, before sager the south-east wind began to 
blow, and became a hill. 

Later on, when the sharks attacked the small island of Peibri — she lived 
to the right of Gelam on the small reef called Mebgor — she left her home 
and came to rest beside Gelam. Mer was a small island once, but Gelam 
came, and then Peibri, to make her big and strong and rich. 

At Mua, Atwer remains at the spot at which she was standing when 
Gelam swam away. The tide came in, but she did not move. Tears streamed 
from her eyes until, at last, she was covered by the sea. Then she turned to 

That Atwer still weeps for Gelam may be seen at every low tide. Then, 
fresh water trickles from her "eyes" — two holes close to the top of the 
rock which she became. 

5. The seeds and plants included : waiwi, 
a variety of mango ; sorbi, a tree which 
bears edible fruit on its trunk; wais 
and kud, trees which bear edible, red 
fruit; w, coconut palms; and different 
varieties of yams (lewer kar [true 

The rich, red soil of Mer is said to 
have been brought from Mua by 
Gelam. Mua, thus deprived, was left 
with poor soil only. 

6. The rock of course is called Usar, 
since it is by that name that Atwer is 
known in West Torres Strait. 

Robert Pitt informed me that Gelam's 
father was a great warrior and a powerful 
sorcerer at Wabada in the Fly River 
delta. He was killed by his own people 
because of his sorcery. 

Gelam then kept his father's bones and 
aids to sorcery in a bag which was always 
beside him when he slept at night. His 
father used to appear to him in dreams, 
foretelling future events and giving 
advice. Thus forewarned, Gelam was 
able to escape with his mother from 
Wabada at a time when there were plans 
afoot to kill the pair of them. 

Gelam and his mother fled across 
Western Papua by way of Kiwai, Gaima, 
the Oriomo River, Daru, Mawat, Ture- 
ture, and Buzi to Boigu and Mabuiag in 
Torres Strait. Finally, they crossed to the 
island of Mua and made a home for 
themselves at Bulbul. 

Deger (or dangal). Deger is the Meriam 
word for dugong. Dangal is the Mabuiag 




[Told by Robert Pitt at Murray Island, 
19 August 1968] 

Dauar is a small volcanic island. The two 
hills mentioned in this story are part of 
the rim of the crater. 

The island of Dauar, showing the two 
hills woven by the sisters, Sidipuar and 

Two sisters, Apinini and Sidipuar, wove the two hills of the island of 
Dauar. Apinini was the elder sister, Sidipuar the younger. They sat at 
opposite ends of the island to do their weaving. 

After a while, Sidipuar felt thirsty and she went to visit her sister. 

When Sidipuar reached her, Apinini laid down her work and did not 
take it up again. But because Apinini had worked at her hill longer than 
Sidipuar had at hers, Apinini's hill was bigger than Sidipuar's. 

The two sisters turned to stone and may be seen on Au Dauar, the big 
hill woven by Apinini. The smaller hill woven by Sidipuar is called Kebi 


OF PEIBRI [Told by Marou at Murray Island, 1 February 1967] 

Formerly, the district of Peibri on Mer was a little coral island which lived 
on the small reef called Mebgor, close to the south-west part of the home 
reef of Mer. 

When Peibri was attacked by sharks one day, it fled for protection to 
the foot of Gelam hill. Where it had been, it left behind a patch of sand, 
nowadays called Wewe Mebgor. 

The sharks pursued Peibri as far as they could and were stranded. There 
they turned to patches of sandstone rock, as can be seen at low tide between 
Gigred and Gigo. 

For Peibri never left the haven it found, but remained where it had 
come to rest and became part of the island of Mer. 

Very often when one stands on the beach 
in the district of Peibri, one sees sharks 
pursuing stingrays almost to the water's 
edge. These stingrays are of a particular 
kind: Aetobatus narinari (Euphrasen). The 
Meriam call them Peibri sor. 

Peibri sor 

Marou, one of the story-tellers. He is 
wearing a dibidibi round his neck. In his 
right hand he holds a gabagaba (club with 
round stone head) and under his left arm 
a seuriseuri (club with rayed head). Marou 
died in 1968. 



This myth belongs to the island of Dauar 
and is said to be very old. Two reasons 
were advanced in support of the great 
age of the story: "the men were really 
animals; the men had no clan." 

Given here are an edited and a re- 
translated version of the story recorded 
in Meriam in the Pasi MS (Reports, III, 
242-43). A detail which Pasi omitted is 
that the men who escaped from Mukeis 
while he was a whale turned to stone after 
they landed at Zuzgiri. Mukeis aban- 
doned the whale nog (form, or shape), left 
it behind as a lifeless whale, and stepped 
ashore as a man. Then the whale nog 
turned to stone. 

It would be in keeping with other 
myths of Torres Strait for the spirit of 
each of the five characters in this story 
either to adopt the nog of another living 
creature, or to take a previously non- 
existent shape or form and become the 
first ancestor of a new species of living 
animal creature. At any rate, there are 
sea-birds called serar, pilauar, gob, and bi, 
and the Meriam word for rat is mukeis. 

Mukeis ira mer pe ike. Able Mukeis au weserweser le. Wi abi detuaklare: 
"Ki nole mari lagkak. Ma au weserweser, ma no naoa." 

Mukeis ide tabara ni kepol eper tag u. E ge Bi kikem damos kega: "Ma 
kari nakaueret?" Bi de abi detager: "Ma no naoa. Ki mari tonar umele." 

E ge bakiamulu Serar i damos kega: "Mi nabakiamulei?" Serar ide abi 
detager kega: "Ma no naoa. Ki mari tonar umele." 

E ko bakiamulu Gob i damos: "Meriba mi nabakiamulei?" Gob ide abi 
kega: "Ma no naoa." E ga Pilauar i damos kega: "Meriba mi nabakiamulei?" 
Pilauar ide abi detager: "Ma no naoa. Ki mari tonar umele." 

E ge no akailu we ge ekueilu. E oka batager, able mer e etkalu kega: "Mi Bi 
ra nar darapei, le mi argei asemulei. Mi Serar ira nar darapei, le mi argei asemulei. 
Mi Pilauar ira nar darapei, le mi argei asemulei. Mi Gob ira nar darapei, le mi 
argei asemulei." Able Mukeis ira mer pe ike. 

Keubu e bakiamulu galbol nog ge balu, nar erap, le ereg esemulu, ga bakiamulu 
nerut nar erap, le ereg esemulu. Able neis nar nab darager darakair. Wi eirsilei 
Zuzgiri ge. E ko eirsilu. Sina esemuda able mer Mukeis ira. 

1. The Meriam includes the word kepol, 
i.e. "separately", indicating that the 
water was for his own use, and would 
not be shared with anvone else. 

This is the story of Mukeis. 

Mukeis was a very greedy man whom others would not have as a 
companion. They said: "We don't want you. You are a glutton. You 
may not come with us." 

Carrying his water in one hand, 1 Mukeis went first to Bi and said to 
him: "May I go with you [in your canoe]?" But Bi refused to have him 
aboard, saying: "You stay behind. We know your greedy ways." 

So Mukeis went to Serar, and then he went to Gob, and after that to 
Pilauar, but each of these men also refused to take Mukeis with him. 
"We know your habits," said Serar and Gob and Pilauar. 

Mukeis stood on the beach and thought for a while, and then he said : 
"We'll wreck Bi's canoe and eat everyone in it. We'll wreck Serar's canoe 
and eat everyone in it. We'll wreck Pilauar's canoe and eat everyone in it. 


We'll wreck Gob's canoe and eat everyone in it. There will be nothing left 
of canoes and people." That is what Mukeis said. 

After he had finished speaking, Mukeis went and entered the form of a 
living whale, wrecked two canoes, one after the other, and ate everyone 
who had been on board each. He then chased the other two canoes, but 
these he could not overtake, and they ran ashore at Zuzgiri. Mukeis also 
landed at Zuzgiri. 

So ends the story of Mukeis. 


KOD [Told by George Passi at Murray Island, 20 August 1968] 

Adarmei adarmo adarmei adarmo 
Wabi kaied ei, wabi kaied ei. 

Adarmei adarmo adarmei adarmo 
Wabi nap ei, wabi nap ei. 

(You and your grandchild are crawling.) 

("Samela Wed" , ancient Meriam song, 
sung by Pop when he climbed the in tree) 

Samaito samaito \ 

Samela samela samaito. . 

(Kamut [string figure] song) 


Pop and Kod lived at Er. Every day Pop climbed to the top of an in tree 
and sang. Kod sat on the ground at the foot of the tree and wove mats. 2 

At first they did not know that they were male and female. Later they 
came together as man and woman. 

Kod gave birth to a male child whom she and Pop named Au Teter 
(big legs). 

The population (nosik) grew from Au Teter and spread out over Mer, 
Dauar, and Waier. 

2. Nog ge balu: nog, form; ge, into, at; 
balu, entered. Here Mukeis, as a man, 
entered inside a whale. While he 
was inside the whale, he retained his 
own human appearance, mind, and 
personality, and the actions and 
thoughts of the whale were those of 
Mukeis. The whale was possessed by 

Nog also means "mask". Thus, the 
donning of an animal mask by a man 
was a dramatized presentation of the 
belief in the transformation of human 
to animal or animal to human. 

Abou Noah told this story in much 
greater detail than George Passi did. He 
named Bez as Pop's home. He also said 
that Kod lived alone at Kes until such 
time as Pop was led to that place one day 
by the smoke from her cooking fire. 
Until then neither Pop nor Kod knew of 
the other's presence on Mer. 

At the end of his story, Abou gave an 
account of a visit to Mer by men of Erub. 
They landed at Beur, only to be told by 
Pop that Mer belonged to him and Kod 
and he would kill them if they did not 
return at once to their own island. 

Marou sang the samela wed for me in 

1967. He gave Bez as the site of the in 
tree which Pop climbed: "Every mor- 
ning Pop and Kod went up to a place 
called Bez, where Pop climbed the in 
tree and sang the samela wed." (Marou 
was twelve years old at the time of the 
Cambridge Anthropological Expedition 
to Torres Strait in 1898. He had vivid 
memories of every member of the Expe- 
dition. Marou died at the beginning of 

1968. ) 

1. Cordia subcordata. Some say Pop 
climbed a pinar tree. 

2. These were pot moder, very strong 
mats woven from pandanus leaves 
from which the outer edges have 
been stripped. 



This story of the origin of certain con- 
stellations is widespread in Torres Strait. 
It is told in great detail at Mabuiag and 

Landtman records it in The Folk-Tales 
of the Kiwai Papuans (Helsingfors, 1917), 
482-84. He obtained several variants as 
well. All were told to him at Mawat, on 
the Papuan mainland. It is of interest that 
the story and the variants obtained by 
Landtman assign Tagai's origin either to 
Mabuiag or to Saibai, islands in Torres 

There are stone relics of Tagai and 
Kareg at Dauar and Murray Island. 
Marou told me that Tagai landed at 
Ormi on Dauar and went to Warebkop 
where he turned to stone, and that there 
are two stones on the reef at Las which are 
Tagai's canoe and Tagai's friend, Kareg. 

Ownership of the constellation Tagai 
is claimed by the Giar-Dauareb, that is, 
by those people who are descended from 
Koit of Las who went to live at Giar on 
the island of Dauar. A family belonging 
to Gigred on Murray Island claims 
ownership of the name, Tagai. 

Tagai is seen by the Meriam as a large 
constellation in the sky to the south of 
them. They see it as a man standing 
aboard a canoe, spear in hand. Tagai's 
left hand is the Southern Cross. 

The story told to me in 1967 and 1968 
by members of the Passi family (who are 
Giar-Dauareb) did not differ from that 
told by their grandfather and Arei to 
Ray in 1898. Given here are an edited 
and a retranslated version of the story 
dictated to Ray (Reports, III, 250). 

1. The Usiam are the Seven Sisters. 

2. The Seg are the stars in alignment in 

Tagai abra dikereder nar. Kareg e kaimeg Tagai ra. Tagai ekueilu tarim ge, 
Kareg ekueilu kor ge. E imut etaiuer. Tagai baur erpeirer, e dasmerer lar em. 

Abra gair pazar emreder eipu, Seg a Usiam, neis, nets, nets, neis, neis, neis. 
Wi lewer eroare a ni iriare nole damosa Tagai. 

Kareg e egremalu, e detager Tagai. Tagai, e keub em egremalu, tabakiamulu 
eip em, e tais gogob, isisir Usiam kikem, bataueredlu gur ge, keubu Seg isisir, 
kepu bataueredlu gur ge. Abra au urker. 

E detager Kareg kega: "Ma netat le namidaua nar ge." 

Tagai was the owner of the canoe; his friend Kareg was with him. Tagai 
stood at the bow, Kareg stood at the stern and poled. Tagai held a spear in 
his hand and looked for fish. 

The crew sat in the middle of the canoe. They were the Usiam 1 and the 
Seg, 2 twelve men altogether. They ate the food and drank the water 
[which was stored on board for the journey] without asking Tagai. 

Kareg saw them do it and told Tagai, who came to the middle of the 
canoe with a loop of rope. With it he strung the Usiam together, and 
[then] he threw them into the sea. He afterwards strung the Seg and 
threw them into the sea. He was very angry. 

Tagai said to Kareg: "You are the only man who may stay in the 


Tup (the kind known as Kos tup) 


Given here are an edited and a retrans- Able Nageg ira mer pe ike. Nageg dauer Ne ge. Keubu e werem esemelu abra 
lated version of the story in the Past MS . G • • £ b ( • au k b u Nageg ide abra sarik digiameilu abi ikuar. Geigi 
(Reports, III, 229-33). & 

e bakiamulu keper em, kikem ititned bozar. E dabgeri tabara apu : "Ama, na 

lar?" "Bozar areg lar." Keubu e itimed gas. E dabgeri tabara apu: "Ama, na 
lar?" "Gas areg lar." A e itimed wirwir. E dabgeri tabara apu: "Ama, na lar?" 
"Wirwir areg lar." Keubu e baur eter abi ikuar. E bakiamulu, paris erem. E 
dasmeri netat au le abra nei Iriamuris. Geigi ikedilu tabara baur. E erapeilu u 
kupi, larerkep itkub, kerem ge dimrilu, a neis teter ge daramrilu, pako neis tag 
ge daramrilu. E baraigilu gur ge, e bakiamulu karem ge, batimedlu. Keubu 
ikariklu, tup dikiam. Iriamuris e tabara weres tikalu, tup akemelu. Geigi e ko 
tabara apu em akomelu. E adem dergeir able larerkep. E bakiamulu erdar tabara 
apu a nerut nole atager kak. Apu lam bagem. Nerut gerger e ko bakiamulu ko 
okaderdar mokakalam kikem. Able korep e tup dikiam. Iriamuris e weres tikalu 
e tup akemelu. E erdar Geigi ra neis teter gab kakake. Iriamuris e mer detager 
kega: "Ao? Mama le nali. Kaka dikepuali lar. Neis gerger ma kari okanardari. 
Ma mabu baseseredua." Nerut gerger, able au le e barkak detaut a Geigi de 
dikepuar bes. Nerut gerger e ko bakiamulu, Iriamuris emetu dirsirer Geigim. 
Iriamuris ide weres kikem akmeilu, Geigi bakiamulu muige abra weres. E 
tikalu, epaiteredlu pao ge. Iriamuris erertekri kega: "Sogi werem kem, wa 
tabatuer a wa taisare sop a irmad a ur." Sogi werem kem wi taisare sop, irmad, 
ur, tawer ge bamer okasise. Gair omasker bakiauare Geigi ra poni depomedlare. 
Iriamuris ide daraisumdarare. Wi ge tabakiauare apu detagrare kega: "Kerbi 
daisumdarda Iriamuris ide." Wi bog tabara uteb. Iriamuris ide ditimedlu kikem 
esak Geigi, e dikasir a igor, wader ga dikasir igor, wader ga dikasir a igor, 
pako tup able korep esemulu. E Geigi ereg, keubu e tup ereg. E weres erap irim, 
irmad irim, tibi alu, irim, wirwir alu irmilu. Sina no ga amdalare. Nageg e nab 
dekair tabara werem. Neis gerger barkiei, e tabakiamulu tikalu tabara kusbager. 
E ditimedlu erertekri kega: "Geigi, kara werem, ma neti kem ge nazirkedi? 
Ma kem em tekep, a bub em tekep, a sor em tekep." A ko tekri able netat mer. 
E tabakiamulu Waier Pit ge, ko erertekri kega: "Geigi, kara werem, ma neti 
kem ge nazirkedi? Aka Iriamuris i kem ge?" Akarikda Dauar ge. "Iriamuris, 
Geigi nade?" Iriamuris ide detaut kega: "Nole. Karim e Eg ge dali. Neis a neis 
kebi le kem." Nageg bakiamulu wiabi nautmerare kega: "Geigi nade?" Wi 
detautare kega: "Wa! E nade dali. Ki nole abi asmerkak." A Nageg takomelu, 


Weres (sardine scoop) 

dasmer Geigi ra kerem mus. E dikepuar: "Iriamuris ide emetu abi irgi." E abi 
kusbager u ikos ke ko deketilu a keubu abra ib deparsilu. E eumilu. Nageg 
bakiamulu, soni meta tidikemulu, tabakiamulu, disur abra kerem, eupamalu 
teter ge ekueilu. E ekueilu, disur, ko eupamalu kerem ge ekueilu. Geigi eded 
akailu. Apu et abi itmer kega: "Ma na ged lam?" Geigi de detaut kega: "Iria- 
muris ide kari nakemeda weres u." Nageg ide abi detager kega: "Mi nabakia- 
mulei merbi ged im." Wi akomelei tab a ged im. Wi ekueilei Ukes ge. Nageg ide 
detager kikem tabara werem kega: "Ma bakiamu. Karem ge batimed. Ese gair 
le mari mekik u wanaoguatmurauem , ma mekik ikeua, a baur u wanaskauem , 
ma baur erapua." E ko apu detager kega: "Mari nab wanaosmerauem, mari o 
seker ide wanariua." Geigi karem ge batimedlu. Nageg e no kur ge balu. Sina. 
Nageg ira mer esemuda. 

Head of a man wearing larerkep (orna- 
mental "fish-eyes") in such a manner as 
to illustrate the significance of the 
adornment. In actual practice, the string 
is tied so that the "eyes" are on the 

This is one of the best-known stories at 
Murray Island. To the word-for-word 
translation recorded here I have added 
a few explanatory details which were 
given to me by Robert Pitt. These addi- 
tions are everywhere enclosed in square 

The story of Nageg and Geigi includes 
the origin of the triggerfish (in Meriam, 
nageg) and the Great trevally (in Meriam, 




1. Bozar, a crested mud goby. 

2. Gas, a mudskipper. 

3. Wirwir, a mud-hopper. 

4. In Meriam, parts. 

This is the story of Nageg. 

Nageg lived at Ne. She gave birth to a male child whom she named 
Geigi. When he became a youth, Nageg bent a bow and gave it to him. 

Geigi went to a lagoon on the reef and shot a fish called bozar. He called 
to his mother: "Mother, what fish is this?" "That is bozar, an edible fish," 
said Nageg. He shot a fish called gas. 2 "Mother, what fish is this," he asked. 
"That is gas, an edible fish," his mother told him. He shot a fish called 
wirwir.* "Mother," he said, "what kind of fish is this?" Nageg told him 
that it was wirwir and was good to eat. 

Later on, Nageg made a fish spear and gave it to her son. 

Geigi now went further from home and speared a Long Tom. 4 

He saw at Teg a man whose name was Iriamuris. Laying aside his spear, 
Geigi broke off young coconut leaves, from which he made fish-eyes 
(larerkep). These he tied over his eyes and to his legs and to his hands, and 
then he swam underwater, going far down when he came to deep water. 
When he came up, he broke the surface of the water in the middle of the 
shoal of sardines at which Iriamuris was scooping with his weres. 

Geigi then returned to his mother at Ne, but he tore off the fish-eyes 
before she saw him. He told her nothing, keeping secret from her what he 
had done that day. 

He played the same trick the following day, breaking up the shoal of 
sardines where Iriamuris was scooping with his weres. But this time the 
white soles of his feet were seen by Iriamuris. 

"Aha!" said Iriamuris, "so you are a human, are you? I thought you 
were a fish disturbing the shoal. You have fooled me twice. Young man, 
you had better be very careful!" 

Geigi went to Teg again. Iriamuris was ready for him and scooped him 
up before he reached the surface of the water in the middle of the shoal of 
sardines. Iriamuris emptied his weres into one half of a canoe which had 
split lengthwise, and then he called to the sogi neur [the grass-skirted girls 
who lived at Damid on Kebi Dauar, the smaller of the two hills on the 
island of Dauar] : "Come down, with your children, sogi neurl Come down 
and bring leaves [to be used as mats upon which to place food], stones for 
a fireplace, and firewood!" 

The sogi neur and their children came at Iriamuris's bidding, bringing 
with them all that he had asked them to bring, and sat down on the beach. 



Their children went to the half-canoe in which Geigi lay and poked his 
eyes with their fingers; and when Iriamuris forbade them to do it, they 
ran to their mothers and said: "Iriamuris stopped our play." Straightaway 
the sogi neur stood up and returned to their home, taking their children 
with them. 

Iriamuris cut up Geigi and boiled him bit by bit; after he had boiled all of 
Geigi, he boiled some sardines. He then ate Geigi [after cutting off his hair] 
and the sardines. After that, he broke his wens and swallowed it; he swal- 
lowed the stones of the fireplace ; he scooped up the ashes of his fire and 
swallowed them; finally, he swallowed the red-hot coals. And then he 
drowsed off from over-eating. 


5. Young bunches of bananas were 
wrapped ("parcelled") to improve 
the size, colour, and flavour of the 

After two days of waiting in vain for her son to return, Nageg set out 
to look for him. She took her kusbager with her and, as she walked round 
the island, called repeatedly: "Geigi, my child, in whose belly are you? 
Attach yourself to the belly and chest and back of the one who has eaten 
you." From the sandspit called Waier Pit she called across to the sandspit 
called Teg on Dauar: "Geigi, my child, are you in Iriamuris's belly?" 

She walked and swam to Dauar and, seeing Iriamuris, asked him if he 
had seen Geigi. Iriamuris replied: "I do not know where your son is. Is he, 
perhaps, at Eg, with the four young men [Ab, Wid, Monan, and Zirar]?" 

So Nageg went to Eg and asked these young men [who had been wrap- 
ping bunches of bananas 5 and were now throwing spears at a banana trunk 
for target play] if they had seen her son. "We do not know where he is. 
We have not seen him," they told her. 

She returned to Teg, where she found Geigi's hair [lying on the sand]. 
"Iriamuris ate him," she said. She drove her kusbager right through his 
body and afterwards struck his jaw. Iriamuris died. 

[Now she cut Iriamuris open and took out of him every part of Geigi's 
body, which she pieced together in correct order.] Nageg went to a tree 
and plucked from it a green ants' nest. She placed the nest on Geigi's head; 
whereupon the ants bit him, and the "fire" from the bites went into his 
bones. She jumped to his feet and "burnt" them next. She "burnt" his 
head once more, and then Geigi came to life. Nageg said to him: "How 
did you come to be there [in Iriamuris's belly]?" "Iriamuris scooped me 
up with his weres" Geigi told her. Nageg said: "You and I are going 

They began the journey back. At Ukes [the narrow channel between 
Teg Pit and Waier Pit] they halted. Nageg said to her son: "Go. Go down 
into deep water [and become a fish]. You will snap the line of every man 
who catches you on his line; you will break the spear of every man who 
spears you." Geigi said to his mother: "[Go and become a fish which lives 
in holes inside coral and stone. No one] will be able to pull you out, be- 
cause the spike on your breast will hold you firmly in place." 

Geigi went down into the deep water. Nageg entered a hole inside the 
coral reef. 

Thus ends the story of Nageg. 

[The following detail was given by George Passi, who obtained it 
from Robert Pitt]: 

When the sogi neur had gone part of the way back to their home, after 

leaving Iriamuris, they built a shelter for themselves and their children 

facing the north-east; then they pulled it down. They built another shelter 

at the same spot, this one facing the south-east; then they pulled it down. 

They built a shelter facing the south-west and pulled it down, and one 

facing the north-west. This also they pulled down, and then they went the 

rest of the way home. 

Wrapped bananas. The parcel, sop, is 
made by wrapping a young bunch of 
bananas with the leaves of rger, wasao, and 
arerarer and tying it with coconut fibre 
string. Wrapped bananas turn red in 
colour and acquire additional flavour. 


Given here are an edited and a retrans- Able neis le ra mer pe ike. Markep a abra keimer Sarkep. Wi kikem oka baskiei. 
lated version ofthe story told to Ray by Markep abu , bakiamulu tawer em, e dasmer gair neur wi gur bagrer, tag 
Pasi in 1898 (Reports, III, 244-46). , , , x 

ditilare Dauar ge, a pako Water ge. 

Markep e tais able tonar mokakalam maek kosker, e nesur esolu atperiklu, 
tibi u tabara gem desao, pako tabara kerem desao. E koket ikalu, abu tawer em. 

E darabgerare gair neur kega : "Karim neur watabaker neis a neis kari wana- 
gardare a ged ge kari wanamarkare." A wi neur neis a neis baker Markep i 
tigardare, able kebi paser ge, detagrare kega: "Nako mari ge ki namarkare?" 
Markep wiabim detaut kega: "harmed ge mari namarkare." 

Wi bakiauare harmed ge, Markep i detagrare kega: "Nako mari ge ki 

Markep ide wiabi daratagrare kega: "Maik'e kara uteb, debele wa kari 
nagardare uteb ge taramridare." 

Able neur wi abi detagerda kega: "Wao." Wi uteb em bakiauare a uteb ge 
Markep ide wiabi daratagrare kega: "Wa keriba kosker bamer ge niai-karem." 

Sarkep e bakiamulu, baur ikalu, bakiamulu lar em, able lar nei bologor. Gair 
bologor kes bazigualare , a e dasmer netat, e tekimelu deg em. Sarkep ikos, 
erpeilu, a tikalu able lar uteb em. Tabara narbet etomelu, "Pe ike meriba lar." 
Markep ide abi detager kega: "Mara neis kosker kara neis kosker, wi obamer 

Nerut gerger wi ko bamariklei ad ge. 

Sarkep e bakiamulu neur darabgerare kega: "Wa kari nagardare ge namarkare 
neis a neis a neis a neis neur." Able neur asrare abra mer, wi tabakiauare abi 
igardare, abi detagrare kega: "Ge ki mari namarkare." 

Sarkep e wiabi daratagrare kega: "Ge kari namarkare." Wi bakiauare 
harmed ge. Abux nesur adem deuselu. Wi gair neur abi dasmerare, tabara bata- 
grare kega: "Kimiar dali," a wi korider adem gur im batirik. 

Sarkep bakiamulu taba uteb ge, emrilu. 

Markep e tais baur lar em. E dasmer bologor. 

Emetu Sarkep ide tabara narbet detager kega : "Ma nole eip u ikos, ma deg ge 
ikos." Markep e eip u ikos, e eupamalu, erpeilu bologor, abi asare gem ge au 

Markep takomelu uteb em, emrilu taba uteb ge, dasmer tabara keimer Sarkep. 
Wi batapertei: "Nole mokakalam kikem gerger mi irpiei neis a neis neur a pako 
lar, a pe irdi mi nole kar." 

Sina. Esemuda able neis le ra mer. 


This is the story of two brothers. Markep was the elder brother, Sarkep 
the younger. The two made a plan. 

Markep went down to the beach and saw many girls swimming in the 
sea at Dauar and Waier. Afterwards they played in the sand [at Teg], in- 
serting their hands in the sand and rubbing them backwards and forwards 
in it to see if spirits would scratch a message on their palms. 

Markep went back and dressed himself as a widow, tying on a petticoat 
which he fastened between his legs and smearing his head and his body 
with ashes. He then took a walking stick and returned to the beach where 
the girls were playing. 

He called to them, saying: "Will four of you walk part of the way home 
with me?" Four girls agreed to do this and accompanied him to the small 
hill, Kebi Dauar, where they said: "Supposing we send you on alone from 

But Markep said: "Go with me to Larmed and then send me on my 

So the girls went with him to Larmed, where they said again: "Sup- 
posing you go on alone now." 

Markep replied: "My home is not far away. It would be better if you 
took me to it." 

The girls agreed to go all the way with Markep, but when they reached 
his home Markep said: "You are wives for my brother and myself. You 
do not leave this place." 

Meantime, Sarkep had taken his spear and gone to fish for bologor. 1 He 
saw many at one spot, fighting for space. He moved to one edge of the 
shoal, speared one, caught it, and took it home, where he showed it to 
Markep, saying: "Here is a fish for us." 

Markep said to Sarkep : "Here are two wives for you and two wives for 
me. They stay here for ever." 

Another day, Markep and Sarkep went down to the beach together. 
There they separated. 

This time Sarkep went to [where] the girls [of Dauar and Waier were 
playing on the sand at Teg]. He said to them: "Eight of you take me part 
of the way home." Eight girls agreed to accompany him and, after they 
had gone part way, said: "We will go back now. You go on alone." 

But Sarkep said: "Take me further." So they agreed and went as far as 
Larmed with him. There his grass skirt came off. "This is a man!" the girls 
cried, and they ran away, down into the sea. 

Sarkep went home and sat down. 

Markep had gone fishing with his spear after he and his brother separated. 
He saw some bologor, as Sarkep had. 
Now Sarkep had told his elder brother: "Don't use your spear in the 

1. Bologor (Naso unicornis) has an alterna- 
tive name in Meriam — sabei. This 
fish has a spike on its head. 


middle of a shoal of bologor. Go to the side of the shoal and spear a fish 
there." Markep, however, stood at the middle of the shoal and threw his 
spear. The bologor leaped up at Markep and scratched his body very pain- 

Markep went home and sat with his brother. The two complained 
bitterly: "This is not like the first day when we caught four girls and a fish. 
This time we caught nothing." 

That is the end of the story of the two men. 


Meidu became the first nipa palm. 
During the north-west season, nipa 
trunks and nuts drift down from New 
Guinea and cast up on island beaches and 
reefs in Torres Strait. 

Given here are an edited and a re- 
translated version of the story in the Pasi 
MS (Reports, III, 239-40). 

1. A cove at the foot of the northern 
slope of Au Dauar. 

2. Karmeri Nor, a reef off the western 
tip of the island, Dauar. 

3. Dibadiba, a small, green bird which 
has an orange breast and a patch of 
red on its head. It is found through- 
out the year at Murray Island. It is a 

4. Meidu's words "where dibadiba flock 
at sunrise and feed until sunset" are 
metaphorical: "Mer and Dauar, 
though your people eat from sunrise 
till sunset, they cannot eat all the food 
you provide." These words (a diba- 
diba te ge, lem weieudua ki waiasameiua) 
have the same significance for the 
Meriam as "Urpi Gigu poiad ras" for 
the people of Mabuiag. Each expres- 
sion praises an island for its wealth, 
which is measured in terms of the 
food it provides. Each of these islands 

Meidu dauer Teiri ge. Abra neis a neis kimiar werem wi kaba eterlare. Wiaba 
nei Ab a Wid Turper, Monan a Zirar. Able neur, wiaba nei Baiso, Eupe, 
Izeiraged. Wi urder op ge. Meidu erertekri kega: "Nako wabi mam ide di- 
mueda?" Meidu gur im baraigilu a tabaruk we ge ut eidilu. Able meg toger, 
kikem abi teter ge igilu, e ge teter narapeilu, a meg ga toger abi igilu esemulu. 
Meg ide abi ikalu. Meidu e mena ut ipereder. Karmeri nor ge e ekiamlu a darasmer 
able neis ged op em. Meidu etkalu kega: "Mer, Dauar, dirdidauam; a dibadiba 
te ge, lem weieudua, ki waiasameiua." E ko ut eidilu, able karem ge ikalu, 
Deudai ge iper wekes ge. Tabara sip namarkare. Sina. Able Meidu ra mer 

This is the story of Meidu. 

Meidu lived at Teiri. 1 Her four sons wrapped bunches of bananas. 
Their names were Ab, Wid Turper, Monan, and Zirar. 

There were girls whose names were Baiso, Eupe, and Izeiraged. They 
lived on the slope [of Au Dauar]. 

Meidu called [to the girls, and when they did not answer her, said]: 
"Why do you behave like this? Is it because of something in your blood? 
Are you driven to it by your blood?" 

Meidu bathed in the sea and then came and lay on the sand. The tide 
came in and the water covered her legs. She moved her legs out of the 
water. The tide rose up to her waist. Again she withdrew her legs from 
the water. The tide rose still higher and covered her whole body; then it 
carried her away. Meidu still slept. 

She woke at Karmeri Nor, 2 to find the two islands to windward of her. 
She said: "Mer, Dauar, dirdidauam; a dibadiba te ge, lem weieudua, ki waiasa- 
meiua (Mer and Dauar, where dibadiba* flock at sunrise and feed until 
sunset, 4 you stay where you are, but I go)." 


Meidu slept again, on top of the water. She drifted until she cast up on 
the beach at Deudai. There she took root. 
So ends the story of Meidu. 



4. [continued] 

is rich in food — though different in 
kind — and the people of each are (on 
that account) proud of their home. 
The true Meriam was a gardener, 
rather than a fisher or hunter. He 
worked the rich, volcanic soil of Mer 
and Dauar in garden land which he 
himself owned. His pride, and the 
collective pride of the Meriam, was 
centred in the food which was grown 
in the gardens. At Mabuiag, on the 
other hand, where the soil is, for the 
most part, poor, a man's pride lay in 
his success as a hunter of dugong and 
turtle. And, whatever the position in 
the past, today the waters of West 
Torres Strait appear to be richer in 
these animals than those of East 
Torres Strait. 







1. Others said it was a woman named 
Gad, not the man Kiar, who lived at 
Korkor with a number of daughters. 

2. The very low tide which occurs 
during the flowering of the cotton- 
tree (kob) is referred to as kob ira 
meskep (kob's dry reef). 

3. Lunella chrysostoma Linne. 

CANNIBAL [Told by Caroline Modee at Murray Island, 

19 August 1968] 

Kiar 1 and his five daughters, Ai, Bak, Arpet, Kabur, and Seskip, lived on 
the hill called Korkor. 

One day, at the time of year when the wild cotton-trees (kob) were in 
full red flower, Kiar and the girls were walking together in their garden 
when Kiar noticed that the whole reef lay bare and dry. 2 So he said : 
"Daughters, go and collect deirdeir (an edible shell-fish)." 3 

Ai, Bak, Arpet, Kabur, and Seskip went down to Las and, after removing 
their grass skirts, walked along the beach to Er. They then went out on to 
the reef and began to collect deirdeir, working their way as far as Ibir. 
There they came in to the beach and sent Seskip, the youngest sister, to 
fetch their skirts from Las. 

After Seskip returned, the girls dressed themselves and were about to set 
out for Korkor when an old man named Kaperkaper came up to them and 
said: "Girls, where are you going? Spend the night with me here at my 
place and go home in the morning." To this the girls replied: "We may 
not stay. Our father is waiting for us." 

But Kaperkaper was insistent. "Stay here," he urged. "If you try to 
return now, you cannot reach your home before dark. You will slip and 
fall; trees may poke at your eyes." In the end the girls agreed to spend the 
night at Ibir. 

Kaperkaper hurried on ahead of them to make everything ready and, 
after he had lit a big fire inside his house, called to the five sisters: "Come 
in! But crawl in backwards, don't come in head first." 

The eldest sister led the way, and, as soon as she was inside the house, 
Kaperkaper grabbed her and put her in the fire. The second sister followed 
the first and was also grabbed by Kaperkaper and put in the fire. And so 
with each of the other girls — as each crawled backwards through the low 
doorway, she was grabbed and put in the fire. Seskip, the youngest, was 
the last to enter Kaperkaper's house. 

Now of all the girls, only Seskip could speak — the rest, Ai, Bak, Arpet, 
and Kabur were dumb. From the flames Seskip cried out: "Alas, Kiar's 
daughters! Alas, father's daughters! (Kilikili Kiar ira neur el Bab ira neur el) 
That was why you made us stay with you. We told you we wanted to 
go home, but you would not let us. You insisted that we stay, because 
you planned to kill us." 


Kaperkaper cooked Kiar's five daughters and ate them. He threw their 
hair outside his house. 

That night, Kiar waited in vain for his daughters to return to Korkor. 
He had a premonition that all was not well with them, so he cut pointed 
sticks from the wood of a kus tree and, as soon as it was daylight, threw 
them. They fell to the ground at Kabur, so he walked to Kabur. He picked 
up the kus sticks (kusbager) and again threw them. This time they landed 
at Semar, so he walked to Semar. When he threw the kusbager at Semar, 
they landed at Baur Pit, not far from Ibir. He threw them once more, 
and they fell to the ground beside the wall of Kaperkaper's house. 

Kiar crawled through the doorway and said to Kaperkaper: "Have you 
seen five young girls?" 

Kaperkaper replied: "I saw them come in from the reef yesterday, and 
as it was nearly dark, I told them to spend the night with me. They re- 

"Oh," said Kiar, "I'll be off, then, and look for them at Weid." But 
Kiar knew very well that Kaperkaper had lied to him, because, before he 
entered Kaperkaper's house, he had seen his daughters' hair, with blowflies 
settling on it, on the ground outside the house, and he had no intention of 
going to Weid. 

After leaving the house, he took a few steps round it and thrust his 
kusbager through the wall. He withdrew the kusbager, took a few more 
steps, and again pierced the wall of the house with the kusbager. Kiar did 
this several times, and then he hurled a kusbager which struck Kaperkaper. 

He now went in to the cannibal, hit him with a stick, and killed him, 
afterwards slitting open his belly and removing the bones of the five girls. 
These he put in one heap and on top of it placed a green ants' nest which 
he plucked from a tree. 

The ants crawled over the bones and bit them, whereupon the "fire" 
from the bites permeated the bones. Kiar "fired" the bones a second time 
and a third time, jumping to different places beside the heap between each 
application of the green ants' nest. After that the bones separated and then 
assembled, fully fleshed, as Kiar's five daughters, each alive and well. 

"How did you come to Kaperkaper's place?" asked Kiar. Seskip told 

Kiar took his daughters home to Korkor, and then he said to them: 
"Ai, you go to Ai. Bak, you go to Bak. Arpet, you go to Arpet. Kabur, 
you go to Kabur. Seskip, my youngest daughter, stay with me." 

Ai, Bak, Arpet, and Kabur became garden places. Kiar and Seskip 
turned to stone on Korkor, where they may be seen to this day. Kiar is a 
big stone; Seskip, a smaller stone, stays not far from her father. 

An old man named Benny Mabo gave a 
different version of this story : 

A woman named Gad lived at Korkor. 
She had many daughters, of whom the 
youngest was Seskip, a chatterbox. 

One day the girls walked down to the 
reef to catch fish. They went as far as Ibir, 
by which time it was late afternoon. 
Kaperkaper, an old woman who lived 
nearby in the cave which bears her name 
— Kaperkaper Kur — persuaded them to 
spend the night with her. She said: 
"Crawl into my cave backwards." And, 
as each girl came in, Kaperkaper grabbed 
her and threw her into her fire. Seskip, 
last to enter, said from the flames: 
"Kilikili! Ma ablegem kerbi tadaisi, ma 
peno kerbi deresa. (You only invited us to 
stay because you wanted to kill us.)" 

Gad, frantic with worry for her 
daughters, set out to look for them next 
morning. A blowfly (abob) told her that 
her daughters were in Kaperkaper's cave 
and led her to it. As she climbed up from 
the beach, she saw her daughters' hair and 
bones lying on the ground outside the 
cave, so she went inside and killed Kaper- 
kaper with a kusbager. 

She then lit a fire outside the cave and 
threw her daughters' hair and bones into 
it. When the fire died away to red coals, 
the girls jumped out live and whole. 
Seskip emerged last and told her mother 
the whole story. 

Gad sent each of her daughters except 
Seskip to a different place on Mer: to 
Bak, Mene, Ai, Arpet, Maur, Werge, 
Pairgir, Semar, Saurem, Pairmed, Tair, 
and Zibir. Seskip she sent down into the 
sea to become the shellfish known by her 
name: seskip (Vasum turbinellus Linne). 
Then Gad returned to Korkor and 
turned to stone. 

And ever since mothers have fed seskip 
to any of their children who are slow to 
speak. When they throw the shell into 
the fire to cook, the flesh bubbles and 
boils and says: "Kilikili!" 


KULTUT [Told by Marou at Murray Island, 1 February 1967] 

Long ago a man named Kultut lived at Widwid. He had a very long right 


Landtman in The Folk-Tales of the 
Kiwai Papuans (Helsingfors, 1917), 
pp. 419-22, records a story about a 
man with a very long right arm, 
which he obtained at Mawata on the 
Papuan mainland. 

One day when he was sitting outside his house, he looked towards Er 
and saw some girls place food in an earth-oven. After they had covered 
it with leaves of trees and banana leaves and soil, they went to the reef to 
gather shell-fish. Kultut made up his mind to steal the girls' food. 

He did this very easily from where he sat: he simply reached out to the 
earth-oven with his long right arm. 

When the tide turned and the reef began to cover with water, the girls 
came in and went straight to their earth-oven, expecting to find their meal 
cooked and ready to eat. They were puzzled and angry when they dis- 
covered the theft of their food. 

Kultut tricked the girls again and again, robbing their earth-oven while 
they were fishing on the reef. 

At last the girls determined to catch the thief in the act : one of them 
would stay behind and watch while the rest were out on the reef. 

Kultut saw nothing unusual in the girls' behaviour the following day: 
as always, after preparing their earth-oven, they went to the reef to gather 
shell-fish. Therefore, the moment he judged their food to be cooked, he 
stretched out his long right arm, plunged it into the earth-oven, removed 
the food, and brought it back to himself at Widwid. 

The girls came in from the reef. "Who is the thief?" they immediately 
asked their companion who had stayed behind. 


"I did not see him," she replied. "What happened was this: a hand at the 
end of a long arm went inside our oven, reappeared holding our food, and 
withdrew in the direction of Widwid." 

"Kultut!" cried the girls, "Kultut is the thief He watched us from 
Widwid and stole our food while we fished." 

The next day several girls stayed at home, each armed with a sharp- 
edged clamshell, and when Kultut's arm appeared, they used these shells 
to cut it off. It was still quivering on the ground when their friends returned 
from the reef. 

All the girls then walked to Widwid and stoned Kultut to death. After- 
wards they threw his body into the sea. 


[Told by Benny Mabo at Murray Island, 
22 August 1968] 

Four men, known as the Muiar, 
felled a cotton-tree (kob) and made 
a canoe 1 from it by hollowing out 
its trunk. They dragged it down 
towards Las, blazing a trail of 
cleared ground which can still be 

The Muiar did not put their 
canoe into the water, however, be- 
cause branches of sent, 2 the yellow- 
flowering hibiscus, had been hung 
at the boundary of Las. These were 
recognized and respected as a sign 
of gelar (taboo), the people of Las 
having shown in that manner that 
"outside people" — people who did 
not belong to Las — must not set 
foot in Las territory until the 
branches of sem had been removed. 
The Muiar turned back: they were 
men who belonged to Piad. On 
the way, all four turned to stone, 
one at Sager, one at Zeum, one at 
Pairmed, and the fourth at Korkor. 

The story of the Muiar has great signi- 
ficance for the Meriam. It is an old story, 
cited as the perfect manner of behaviour 
towards others' property and the rights 
which those people have over the use of 
their property. Trespass is abhorrent to 
the true Meriam. 

The highly refined system of owner- 
ship which pervaded the Meriam world, 
a system which included individual 
and/or group ownership of stars and 
winds and reefs and sea and names as 
well as land, was reinforced by the prac- 
tice of erecting signs of gelar (taboo), and 
by verbal injunctions. 

"Ad le mimikak Muiar (Outside people, 
people who do not belong to or own a 
place, must not trespass in it — as the 
Muiar did not)" was, in the first place, a 
rule of conduct for the Piadaram le. Later 
it was adopted into the Malo cult and 
taught as a sacred and fundamental 
principle of behaviour: 
Malo Muiar kemerkemer Muiar, 
Ad le mimikak Muiar, 
Ad le ged lukep atarukak Muiar. 
(Malo is exactly like the Muiar. Do not tres- 
pass — as the Muiar did not. Do not enter 
another man's garden. Do not pluck the fruit 
in his garden. Turn back from it, in the man- 
ner of the Muiar.) 

Another rule of Malo which stemmed 
from the Muiar (and thus, from the 
Piadaram le) was: 

Lis lam a warn lam ka nakekrer. 

(I will not enter a place while a small branch 
of sem bars my way to it.) 

1. The place at which the cotton-tree 
was felled was afterwards called 
Nargiz (from nar, a canoe; and giz, 
a beginning). The tree is said to have 
stood on land owned today by Moses 
Sagigi. When it fell, the top came to 
rest on land owned by Jimmy Wailu. 

2. Sem was used as a sign of gelar (taboo) 
in this instance, but sem is not the 
only plant used to denote taboo on 
property at Murray Island. The 
custom is still practised. 



NAWANAWA [Told by Henry Kabiri at Murray Island, 

17 February 1967] 

Two men, Paimi and Nawanawa, 1 failed to put in an appearance at Ebau 

at a feast to which all the Dauareb had been bidden. "Where are Paimi and 

Nawanawa?" the people began to ask. 

As the day wore on and there was still no sign of the two, resentment 

against them mounted. At last, all the men took up their kusbager (spears) 

1. During the middle of the year, a bird and set out to look for them on Au Dauar, the big hill which forms one 

called nawanawa visits Murray Island, ha j f of the isknd of Dauar 
Dauar, and Waier. It is a grey land- 

bud, bigger than the Torres Strait Paimi ! Nawanawa ! the men called. Where are you? 

pigeon. The reply came from a distance: "We're here! We're here in this tree!" 


The Dauareb climbed higher, so angry that they determined to kill the 
two men when they found them. 

Paimi and Nawanawa saw the men coming towards them and flew from 
the branch on which they were sitting to a smaller one near the top of the 
tree. There they sang : 

Paimi Nawanawa (e) Paimi Nawanawa (e) iki digiredi (o) 
iki eupreiei (o). 

(Here we are, Paimi and Nawanawa, 

Sitting up here on the branch of a tree. 

Here we are, Paimi and Nawanawa, 

Hopping higher and higher, from branch to branch.) 

"Come down! Come down!" shouted the Dauareb. "Paimi Nawanawa 
(e) Paimi Nawanawa (e) iki digiredi (o) iki eupreiei (o)," sang the two birds, 
as they hopped higher and higher, from branch to branch. 

Before the Dauareb could throw their spears at the maddening pair, 
Paimi and Nawanawa climbed down to the ground and turned to stone. 2 

2. The two stones which were once 
Paimi and Nawanawa are at Igero 
Mager, on the side of the big hill, 
Au Dauar. 


[Told by Marou at Murray Island, 1 February 1967] 

Able neur gise beizam i eweda (a) (e) 
Sab neur kem dug neur abi eweda. 

(The girls are wading on the reef dragging a shark. 

The girls of the North and the girls of the swelling waves 

Are hauling as they wade through the water.) 

(Meriam song composed by Tapim Bennyfather) 

One day, four girls — Waigi, Sigi, Kiami, and Dugi — caught a shark on 
the reef in front of Sebeg and killed it. Waigi and Sigi lifted the front of 
the shark, Kiami and Dugi, the tail; together they took it to the edge of 
the reef and threw it into the sea. 

The shark and the girls went up to the sky, where they became the 
constellation, Beizam. 2 

Sebeg is a village in the district of 

This constellation is called Baidam in 
the Western Islands. Aniba Asa of 
Saibai told me that Baidam is seen to 
the north of Torres Strait during the 
hard, dry months of the year, Sep- 
tember and October. 


[Told by Meb Salee at Murray Island, 2 September 1968, 
and Uni Passi at Thursday Island, 28 October 1968] 

"Terer, kara werem! 
Terer, kara werem!" 

1. Geuram le, people who belonged to 
the territorial division of Geuram. 

2. "Meriam" here refers to either or 
both of the territorial divisions, Pia- 
daram and Meriam Samsep — 
possibly the latter. 

3. Melpal, a big eel. 

4. Maid le, sorcerers. (Maid, sorcery — 
described by one informant as a 
"kind of secret warfare".) The belief 
that "poisonous substances" were 
used by sorcerers seems to be wide- 
spread at Murray Island. One of the 
plants named was identified as Tacca 
leontopetaloides (L.) O. Ktze. A water- 
extract killed mice by subcutaneous 
injection, but not when fed to them 
(J. Watt and R. Ladd, University of 
Queensland). For an account of the 
history of this plant and its use as a 
source of edible starch, see Hayward, 
"The Cultivated Taccas", in Baileya 
(1957), V, 89-96. 

5. Pot moder is a very strong mat woven 
from pandanus leaves from which 
the outer edges have been stripped. 

"Ama, nalugem?" 

"Mara lid Beig em." 

("Terer, my son! 
Terer, my son!" 

"Mother, why do you call me?" 

"Your bones will go to Beig.") 

(Modern Meriam dance song) 

The youth, Terer, and his mother, Aukem, belonged to Kes and Geurao, 
places on Mer. They lived at Kes. They were Geuram le. 1 

One day, when young Meriam 2 men were performing the melpaf dance 
at Utem (not far from Kes and Geurao), Terer was walking home by him- 
self after watching them, when he was caught by Meriam maid le 4 in the 
scrub at Geurao. These men skinned him and then sent him back to Kes. 

He went to his mother who, at the time, was sitting on the ground in the 
shade of a fig tree weaving a pot moder. 5 When she looked up from her 
work and saw him, she cried out in horror: "Terer, my son, what have you 

Melpal umen 


done at Kes and Geurao ! You are only a zer (a person from whom the life 
essence, agud, has departed) ! Your bones will go to Beig !" 6 

Terer jerked a few steps sideways 7 in the direction of Geurao, a few 
steps back to Kes, and then a few skips to the same foot in one spot, 8 
accompanying his convulsive movements with a tap? 

Terer a we! we! 
Markai a we! we! 
We! We! We! 

(Alas ! Alas ! Terer is a ghost !) 

And then he left Kes and began to run across the island. 

He sang and danced on Zaum Paser ; on the other side of Zaum Paser at 
Zor; in Wargor, the region beyond Zor; and again when he came down 
to the beach at Werbadu. At each of these places he performed in the same 
manner as he had before his mother at Kes. And now at Werbadu, having 
skipped towards the lokot 10 and back towards the sea, and then in one spot, 
he entered the water and crossed to the island, Dauar. 

Terer danced and sang at Saded. He went round the rocks at the base 
of the high hill, Au Dauar, and danced and sang at Giz, and so came to the 
white sandbeach which stretches unbroken to the tip of the island at 
Giar Pit. Running, halting at Dadamud to dance the kuir, running, the 
youth who was a zer reached the edge of the sea. 

There Aukem, who had followed him since he left Kes, caught up with 

Terer danced for the last time, to the words: 

Terer a we! we! 
Markai a we! we! 
We! We! We! 

and went into the water where he changed into bonao (brain coral). His 
mother followed him. 

Terer's ghost took the form of a whirlwind. It returns to Mer and 
Dauar every year during the season of sage r, the south-east wind, to dance 
at all those places at which Terer danced as a zer after being flayed by the 
maid le. On Dauar, the whirlwind which is Terer's ghost begins to gather 
intensity when it reaches the beach at Giar, twisting higher and higher, 
faster and faster, as it races along the white sand to the sea off Giar Pit. 

6. Beig was believed to be the land to 
which the spirits of dead people 
went. It lay somewhere to the west. 
Very few spirits returned from Beig. 
Those who did were called lamar. 
Lamar had pale skins. 

7. The verb used for Terer's jerky 
movements sideways is esakeida: 
"Terer esakeida". 

8. The jerked skips in one spot are 
called the kuir. 

9. Tap, a song intoned on one note. 
10. Lokot, the area of scrub immediately 

behind tawer. The people built their 
houses on tawer, which is the sandy 
ground immediately behind, and 
adjacent to, the beach. 



[Told by Joe Jib at Murray Island, 14 August 1968] 

Joe Jib is the present owner of the stone, 
Kol, which is similar to the black stones 
at Er. Kol is still at Zeub. It is said to have 
once been a man. 

Ray, the linguist who accompanied 
the Cambridge Expedition to Torres 
Strait in 1898, obtained a version of the 
story of Kol in South Seas Mission- 
influenced Meriam (Reports, VI, 11). In 
pure Meriam this reads: 

Wi erpariklare batuerer Er ge. Wi terpariklare 
Zeub ge batuerer. Wi erpariklare Er ge batuerer. 
Wi erpariklare Zeub ge batuerer. Wi erpariklare 
Zeub ge. E emrilu niaiem. 

(They rolled him [from Zeub] down to Er, 
and from Er back to Zeub. They rolled him 
from Zeub down to Er, and from Er back to 
Zeub. They rolled him from Zeub down to 
Er, and from Er back to Zeub. They rolled 
him at Zeub. He stayed there for ever.) 

People rolled Kol from Er to Zeub. 
They put him there. 


LEIWAG [Told by Marou at Murray Island, 20 June 1966] 

The south-west wind blew hard during a cyclone, stripping a coconut 
palm which grew at Lei wag. A coconut fell on the beach and was taken 
by the outgoing tide to Waisirir at the edge of Mer's fringing reef. It lay 
there throughout low water and came in with the next tide. 

Gedor of Leiwag, who had been fishing with his three-pronged spear 
outside the wall of a stone fish-trap, saw what he took to be a fish coming 
towards him and speared it, the prongs of his spear piercing the "eyes" 
and "mouth" of the coconut. He took it ashore, removed the stringy husk, 
and broke the hard shell to expose the flesh inside. "I wonder if it is good 
to eat," he thought to himself. He determined to find out. 

So he called to all the dogs about the place: "Se, se, se, pokara, se, se, se!" 
They ran to him, and he fed them with shredded coconut. They ate it 
readily and afterwards lay down satisfied. "It can't be poisonous and it 
must taste nice," Gedor decided. 

Next, he fed some coconut to ants. He watched them carefully. None of 
the ants died. "I've found something good to eat," said Gedor. 

Now he scraped coconut for himself and tasted it. He waited anxiously, 
wondering if he would die. Nothing happened — indeed, he felt very well. 
He tasted a little more, again waiting to see what effect it would have on 
him. Then, as he still felt well, he knew that he had discovered an excellent 
food. Gedor was very happy and ate the rest of the coconut. 


[Told by Marou at Murray Island, 1 February 1967] 

One day, Korseim decided to leave his home at Bumeo on Erub (Darnley 
Island), because it was no longer congenial to him, and go and live at Mer. 
So he set out in a canoe with two men, Neiu and Sager, as crew, and their 
two sisters, Pip and Zabaker, as cooks for the party. 

On the way across to Mer, Korseim changed into a large moth (paim- 
paim kap) and flew back and forth between bow and stern. And the whole 
time he did this his companions sang this song: 

Orbei orbei orbei 

Kaur em (a) pas em (a) sosoi em (a). 

(Row! Row! Row! 

To an island, to a shore, to a beach.) 

When they reached Mer, they went round the island by way of Gigo and 
Keuk and Werbadu to Warwei, where they landed. 

All then walked inland, looking for a suitable place for Korseim. They 
went as far as Zer, a thickly-forested area, and had still not found what 
they were looking for, so they turned back. Wirar proved suitable, and 
there Korseim stayed under a kozo x tree. Pip remained in the bush close by. 

Zabaker walked on with Sager and Neiu, but the two brothers left her 
at Warwei 2 and went down to the highwater mark on the beach by 

All may be seen as stones: Korseim at Wirar, Pip in the bush close to 
Korseim, Zabaker at Warwei, and Sager and Neiu at highwater mark on 
the beach at Warwei. 

Nothing more is known about the brothers and sisters who accom- 
panied Korseim from Erub to Mer. Korseim, however, lived on as a very 
big paimpaim kap, the form into which he changed on the way to his new 

Korseim, paimpaim kap, the stone at 
Wirar, and the area in the immediate 
vicinity of Wirar are associated with 
madness. Indeed, paimpaim means mad 
or foolish ; paimpaim kap is, literally, mad 
moth ; and there was a firm belief in the 
past that if a person were dusted by the 
wings of a paimpaim kap — a large, grey- 
brown moth which is sometimes seen 
inside houses at Murray Island — he or 
she would go mad. An eighty-seven- 
year-old informant told me: "That place 
where they been acting there (i.e. Wirar) 
some people go mad about in that place. 
Make 'em garden there, they lose their 
head." Nor is that tradition by any means 
forgotten today. 

Marou, who told the story of Korseim 
— and for whom it had very great per- 
sonal significance — sang another song 
which Korseim is said to have taught his 
people (boai) : 

Lumai (e) 

Kazi lumai (e) lumai (e) 
Kazi lumai (e) lumai (e) 
A ega (e) wa besi kupainu 
Ga inagi. 

The words are Mabuiag. They are 
strongly reminiscent (in a mutilated 
form) of a song which occurs in a story 
called "Wawa" which is told at two of 
the Western Islands of Torres Strait, 
Badu and Boigu, and is recorded in those 
sections of this book. 

1. Kozo, a tree which grows to a height 
of about thirty feet. The wood is 
light purple and has a very pleasant 
smell. The bark is very smooth and 
is grey in colour. 

2. The stone, Zabaker, is on top of a 
cairn of stones at the old village site 
of Warwei. 



The story of Malo is more important by- 
far than any other told at Murray Island, 
for the reason that Malo became the 
central figure of a religion which em- 
braced everyone at Mer, Dauar, and 
Waier, except those who were nog le 
(no [gj], only; le, people), that is, those 
few who were not Meriam through the 
male line of descent. Worship of Malo 
also spread to the other Eastern Islands, 
Erub and Ugar. 

Mention is made in the story of Malo's 
brothers (called Sigar, Siu, and Kolka by 
the Meriam; Sigai, Sau, and Kulka by 
those who speak the Mabuiag tongue), 
each of whom chose to settle at islands 
south of Mer: Sigar at lama (Yam 
Island), Siu at Masig (Yorke Island), and 
Kolka at Aurid. The religion which 
developed at these places after the coming 
of the brothers created a bond with Mer. 
It was known at Waraber and Nagi. 
Murray Island informants said that 
aboriginals from the Cowal Creek and 
Lockhart River areas of Cape York 
Peninsula supplied turtle oil and red ochre 
for Malo. Sigai's story is given in the 
Yam Island section of the stories from the 
Central Islands. Sau has been forgotten 
at Yorke Island, except for the detail : 
"Sigai and Kulka visited Masig. Sigai 
told Kulka and Sau that they must take 
a present of shells and coral to their 
brother Malu at Mer." Aurid was aban- 
doned by its people many years ago. In 
Torres Strait, Kulka is only a name from 
the past. 

Malo cannot be dissociated from the 
shadowy, terrifying Bomai. No one but 
fully initiated members of the cult knew 
that worship of Malo meant worship of 
Malo-Bomai. The uninitiated did not 
know the secret name, Bomai. They did 

Malu ged au abimedabimed , kaur au abimedabimed, kab pur au 

(Malo smoothes the way, overcoming treachery and 
resistance on land and sea, both at home and abroad. 

Malu terpar, kiaurkiaur terpar. 

(Malo is exactly like the oyster growing on the reef. 
He cannot be moved. He is fixed in his ways, inflexible.) 

(Instructions given to Malo initiates) 

Gair Malo ra mer pe ike. 

Malo, nerut le abra nei Sigar, pako Siu nerut le, pako Kolka nerut le. Neis a 
neis gair le. Wi neis a neis nar wiaba nagriueretlare , a wi nar par darakrida. 
Nar ge Sigar ira par derparki, e ekueilu nar tarn ge erertekri kega: "Wa ko 
tabakiaudare." Wi nole lagkak wemridare Am ge. 

Wi neis a netat le mena nor ge emridare, keubu kepu bamarkidare. Siu emrilu 
Masig 'e. Kolka emrilu Aurid ge. Malo, e kei tabakiamulu Mer em. 

E waka akariklu karem nor ge, able au zeuber tedao abra nar diter desemulu. 
E gur ge baraigilu, keubu nar ira maumer dikiam. E baskomedlu able lager ge. E 
emarik. E tikalu iper kikem Begeigiz ge. 

Wi gair le, Dauer, Malo i detagerda kega: "Keriba agud, ged seker em." 
Wi berber kar dirkare, abi detagerda kega: "Mese emri. Ki nabakiauare lewer 
em dasmerare." Wi bakiauare lender em dasmerare. Malo 'de erap able kar, 
baraigilu gur ge, ikalu Giar ge iper. 

Gair Giar-Dauar le abi erpeirare, detagrare kega : "Ma keriba agud, ged 
seker em, emri." Wi abra kar dirkare dairumertare . Wi bakiauare lewer em 
dasmele, e kar erap, baraigilu gur im, a ikalu Ormi ge iper. 

Gair Ormi le abi erpeirare a imrirare, abi detagrare kega: "Ma keriba agud, 
ged seker em." Wi bakiauare lewer em dasmele, e erap able kar, e gur im baraigilu, 
e ikalu Ne ge iper. 

Netat le abi erpeilu detager kega: "Ma keriba agud, ged seker em." E abi 
detager: "Ma emri. Ki nabakiauare lewer em dasmerare." Wi bakiauare das- 
merare lewer em. E erap able kar, e baraigilu gur ge, ikalu adem, iper Teker ge. 


Netat kosker mekik em ikueireder. Malo de tabara gem dipigemelu mokakalam 
nar. Able kosker et dikepuar nar. Keubu e dipigemelu mokakalam lu. E dikepuar 
able lu. E maik 'e abi doge mokakalam arti. E abra neis teter narpeilu. 

Kabur ikos abi malili u, epei em alu, e akariklu. Malo i kebi keper ge emariklu, 
Kabur tabara nesur igmesilu, keubu Malo i ikailu epei em alu. 

E op em akariklu, tabara kimiar detager kega: "Dog, mara o dali." Wi abi 
ikailei meta mui ge emreredlei, a tabara batagriei kega: "Mi ki ge abi dedlei." 

Wi balei meta em able ki ge batkapriklei netat sik 'e. Wi nole utkak. Able ki 
ge, Malo, e erkep bi nagilu, keubu ib kep napit, e teosmelu adem. 

E deraueilu narbit pek 'e. E bakiamulu Peibri ge, bakiamulu meta ge balu. 

Able le wi ekiamlei gerger ge , able kimiar, e tabara mair tikalu, gem etkopar, 
pako peris u baoderedlu, a sam dimrilu kerem ge. E deraueilu narbit pek 'e. Abra 
kosker Kabur esolu debe nesur, pako ner mair bagrameilu, papek isigemelu, 
emrilu maik 'e abra kimiar. 

E bakiamulu Las ge deketilu ; gair le Las ge urder abi dasmerare. Wi mer 
batagerda kega: "Auim ira nalu nako dike?" Dog, e akomelu tabara kosker 

A nerut gerger ge gair le wi oka ipuare, neis le namarkare. Wi Kabur ira tup 
dikalei, tabakiamulei abi ikuarei. Kabur ide wiabi nautmer kega: "Nako ia ko 
bakiamulam?" Wi Kabur i detagrei kega: "Mi ut naididare." Wi neis le oka 
baskiei kega: "Mi nole utkak." Wi ki ge bartidare ut em. Wi batkapriklei 
netat sik 'e. Wi nole utkak. Wi erkep nakereder. 

Dog, e abkorep ko deraueilu mokakalam kikem gerger ge. Kabur ide wiaba 
lewer ais wiabi naisuer. Wi bes bakiamulei, Kabur i detagrei kega: "Ma naoa." 
Wi bakiamulei lu ispiei, wi ko takomelei, meta luneb erapei, balei, a Malo i 
titrumlei; wi tabara ikalei. 

Able Sarkep, e Zagareb le. Dam, e Beizam le. 

Wi maik 'e barmei Aud ge. Dam, e kab le. Sarkep, e warup le. Ga bakiamulei 
Keugiz ge barmei, ege Sarkep nab Dam i etkelu, abi kega: "Kaimeg, ma ko 
karim tikao." Ege Dam ide Sarkep i detager kega: "Kaimeg, ma no warup le 
naoa. No kari tararemoa." 

Wi Keugiz ge barmei, ga bakiamulei Gebadar Kop ge barmei, a ga bakiamulei 
paser ge, Gazir ge barmei, a ga bakiamulei Dam ge barmei, ikailei emreredlei, 
wi ge bakiamulei tawer ge etrumlei. 

Gair le wiabi nardarare. Gair le wiabi nautmerare kega: "Nade pa ike?" 
Ege neis le wiabi daratagrare: "Inoko op ge teme." 

Dog e deraueilu; abra sir dormeilu. E akomelu Kabur i detager: "Mese 
bakiamu, naluglam kara sir ormeida." 

Kabur bakiamuda meta mui ge, dasmer able luneb, erertekri Dog im kega: 
"Neis le wi Malo i itrumdariei. Nako tabara ikadariei." 

Dog ide ditimedlu au mer igar, igar, keubu detager tabara kosker kega: 
"Mi nabakiamulei Las em." 

not know the whole nature of the agud 
(god) which had come to Mer in the 
form of an octopus, only believing that 
obedience to Malo guaranteed peace and 
protection. "Ma nole Maloi disrir. (Do not 
bare your teeth at Malo.)" "Ma nole op 
mer detager. (You must not speak against 
Malo.)" "Ma nole Maloi teter u itur. (Do 
not kick — oppose or offend — Malo.)" 
They did not know that behind these 
commands lay the threat: "or Bomai 
will strike." Bomai's men, "the sharks of 
the forests", the Beizam boai (shark kin, 
men whose original agud was the shark, 
descendants in the male line of the seven 
brothers of Las who obtained possession 
of the sacred octopus from its first own- 
ers, Dog and Kabur), were as swift to 
strike those who disobeyed Malo as the 
sharks which hide in the deep lagoons in 
the reef. Penetration of cult mysteries by 
the uninitiated earned death, which was 
accomplished by a secret method in the 
name of Malo-Bomai. 

When the Beizam le acquired the 
precious agud (the octopus), they develop- 
ed rites for its worship. Later, men from 
the high islands like Nagi, and men from 
the low coral cays, came in search of the 
brother of Sigai, Kulka, and Sau, whom 
they called Malu. (The Meriam word for 
the deep sea which lies beyond an is- 
land's fringing reef is malo; the Mabuiag 
word is malu.) They brought with them 
ceremonial dances for worship of Malu, 
and another concept of his nature. This 
was grafted on to the original concept — 
hence Malo-Bomai. 

Aet Passi (or Pasi — see footnote 13 of 
Introduction), one of the Beizam boai, 
who had risen to a high rank in the Malo- 
Bomai religion before the coming of 
members of the London Missionary 
Society to Mer, wrote the story of Malo 
in Meriam for Ray in 1898. Given here 
are an edited and a retranslated version 
of the story in the Pasi MS (Reports, III, 
233-39). Aet's grandson, George, spent 
many hours helping me with the re- 


Wi bakiamulei Las em. Gair le urder Las ge, wi mer batagrare. Dog pako abra 
kosker wiabi nautmerare kega: "Netide Malo i tikada?" 

Wi abi sogob emerare a detagrare: "Ma no dikaer. Meriba agud ge wadauer." 
Wi takomelei ged im Teker em. 

Wi ge oka batagrare. Keubu, u kupi erapeirare, larerkep itkubare, wi keremge 
demrare, pako neis teter ge, a tag ge. Wi kab barier. 

Wi tabaragare Nagiram le pako Sikaram le, Malo i tidiraimrare. Mipuleb pako 
asor puleb tikadarare ga ikadarare. Werbadu ge nar namarare, Gep t itmerare 
kega: "Nade Malo?" "Penoko!" Wi Gep ira nam ditimdare, warup u dermare. 
Gep ide natomertare. 

Nar nataiuare Er em, Er ge namarare, wi Barat i itmerare kega: "Malo nade?" 
Barat ide wiabi daratagrare kega: "Tedali nade lu mairmair deskedi." 

Wi Barat ira nam ditimdare a warup u dermare. Wi nar nataiuare Las em, 
Las ge namarare. Wi baupamaret gesep em, gesep ge bamer. Gair le wiabi 
lewer u darasisiare. Ga urder, utbaider. 

Gair nar: Beizam le ra tabara nar, a Zagareb le ra tabara nar, a Omai le ra 
tabara nar, a Deumer le ra tabara nar, a Geregere le ra tabara nar. 

Wi demarerdare ati em. Netat le, e mer aosos kem lewer tais. Wi ge asrare 
able le ra mer. Wi bako a batir nar ge, tarakerare kor we ge daramarare. Wi ge 
nar ge mud demare. 

Omai le kikem moder dikriare, tabaupamaret , pigir bagrare, baker baid. 
Deumer le tabara moder adem dikriare, tabaupamaret , bauper, baker bamer; a 
Geregere le tabaupamaret, bauper, bauper, baker bamer. 

Zagareb le tabaupamaret ; wi atug a bamer. Beizam le keubu tabaupamaret. 

Keubu wi baker nar em batir, Malo i sor dikriare, akmeirare gur ge. 

Gair Nagiram le pako Sikaram le, wi nar darakrare, bakiauare tabara ged. 

Sina esemuda able Malo ra mer. 

This is the whole story of Malo. 

Malo, Sj^ar, Siu, and Kolka, each of these four men in his own canoe, 
ifropped anchor on the reef. Sigar's anchor dragged, and as he drifted away 
\he stood on the platform of his canoe and called to the others: "Come, 
too!" But they did not want to stay at Yam Island where Sigar was going. 

The three who remained together parted company in the end. Siu stayed 
at Masig. Kolka stayed at Aurid. Malo came to Mer. 

Soon after Malo reached the edge of the reef, a big wave sank his canoe. 
He jumped overboard and broke off the gunwale of the canoe. There was 
a rope tied to the gunwale ; he clung to the rope for a while, and then he 
let go. He drifted and cast up at Begeigiz. 

The people of this village saw him and said: "You are our god, our 
protector." They penned him in with berber vine and told him to wait 


while they went to fetch food for him. Malo broke the fence, entered the 
water, drifted, and cast up at Giar. 

The people received him, saying: "You are our god, our protector. Stay 
here." They built an enclosure around him. They went to their gardens for 
food for him, and during their absence Malo broke the fence, re-entered 
the sea, and drifted again with the tide. The tide took him to Ormi. 

There the people received him and bade him sit down. "You are our god, 
our protector," they said. But after they went to gather food from their 
gardens, he escaped from the fence that they had built around him, again 
went down into the sea, and once more drifted with the tide. 

At Ne on the island of Waier where he cast up next, the man who 
received him also hailed him as god and protector and penned him; 
and then the man went off with his people for food. He departed from the 
place with the tide. 

Off Teker he assumed different forms. 

That day, Kabur stood on the reef line-fishing. When she saw a canoe 
approaching, she did not know that it was Malo ; to her, what she saw was 
merely a canoe. When she saw something in place of the canoe, she thought 
it was that thing. Close to her Malo became an octopus and he entwined 
himself about her legs. 

Kabur speared the octopus with a pointed stick, put it in the basket which 
she carried, and walked back towards the shore. She released the octopus 
in a pool while she wrung out her skirt; then she returned it to her basket 
and climbed the hill to her home at Aud. 

"Dog," she said, showing her husband the sacred thing she had found, 
"here is courage for you." The two carried the basket inside the house; 
both agreed that they would watch it throughout the night. 

Sleepless, husband and wife lay close together on one bed in the dark, 
their eyes on the basket. Suddenly Malo's eyes lit up. They heard him slap 
the sound of ibkep and afterwards leave the house. 

Malo walked to Peibri, on the other side of the island, and went into a 

In the morning Dog painted himself, stuck feathers all over his body 
and tied on a head-dress of cassowary feathers. Kabur put on a good skirt 
and painted her temple. Then she laid a mat and sat on it beside her husband. 

Dog went for a walk round the island. The men of Las saw him go by 
and said: "What can our brother-in-law have acquired that he flaunts him- 
self in this fashion?" Dog returned home to Kabur. 

The men of Las thought up a plan. They sent two men, Sarkep 
and Dam, with a present of sardines for Kabur. "How can you return to 
your home [before dark]?" she asked [for it was late when they rose to go]. 
"We will sleep here," they said. That night, the two men lay close to- 


gether inside the house, but they did not sleep : they kept their eyes wide 

In the morning, after Dog had departed to walk round the island again, 
Kabur brought food to the men. They took their leave, but they did not 
go far before hiding their belongings and returning. They made a hole in 
the wall of the house, went inside, took Malo and left. 

Sarkep was a Zagareb man; Dam was a Beizam man. 

Not far from Aud, Sarkep beat a drum and sang while Dam performed 
a dance. They walked a little further, to Keugiz. There, also, Sarkep beat 
the drum while Dam danced. Then Sarkep wanted to dance with the 
basket [containing Malo], but Dam refused to part with it. "You beat the 
drum and sing for me, that is your part," Dam told his friend. 

They sang and danced at Gebadar Kop; they went to the hill at Gazir 
and sang and danced. At Dam they sang and danced, and then they hung 
up the basket and went down to the beach at Las. 

The men saw them coming. "Where is it?" they asked. "Hanging in 
the bush," Dam and Sarkep replied. 

As he walked that morning, Dog's happiness left him. All was not well 
at his home, he knew it. He returned at once to Kabur and said: "Go inside 
our house. Find out why my happiness went from me." 

Kabur went inside the house, saw the hole in the wall and called: 
"The two men took Malo down. They stole it." 

Dog spoke many angry words. Afterwards he said: "Come! We are 
going to Las!" 

At Las, Dog and Kabur said: "Who took Malo?" 

The men of Las gave Dog and Kabur a pipe of tobacco to smoke and 
said: "Let Malo remain here to be agud for all of us." Dog returned with 
Kabur to Teker. 

At Las, the men broke a young, green leaf from a coconut palm and used 
it to make larerkep (ornamental "fish eyes") to tie on their heads and their 
legs and their hands. Then they danced. 

Men from the high islands like Nagir and men from the low coral cays 
(the Nagiram le and the Sikaram le) crossed the sea, searching for Malo. 
They brought with them clamshells and spidershells which had special 
significance. When they reached Mer, they anchored at Werbadu and 
asked the man, Gep: "Where is Malo?" "There!" pointed Gep. They 
threw him a turtle and beat drums for him. 

They rowed to Er, anchored, and asked Barat: "Where is Malo?" "He 
stays where the trees with red paint on them grow," Barat told them. 

They threw a turtle to Barat and beat drums for him, and then they 
rowed to Las. There they anchored, went ashore and sat down. The people 
of Las brought them food. Later they slept. 


Many canoes had come to Las : Beizam men in their canoe, Zagareb men 
in their canoe, Omai men in their canoe, Deumer men in their canoe, and 
Geregere men in their canoe. 

When the men from the islands across the sea announced their return 
to their homes, food was brought to them for their journey. One of the 
Meriam grumbled about the amount of food which had been carried for 
the visitors ; he was heard and understood. As one man, the Nagiram le and 
the Sikaram le stood up and went straight to their canoes. They dragged 
them round stern first on the beach and erected mat screens on board. 

The Omai men threw aside their mat sail, jumped down, performed like 
dogs, then went and sat down. The Deumer men threw down their sail, 
jumped down, performed like Torres Strait pigeons, then went and sat 
down. The Geregere men threw down their mat sail, jumped down, per- 
formed like parrots, then went and sat down. 

The Zagareb men jumped down, performed, then went and sat down. 
The Beizam men jumped down. 

All then returned to their canoes. They took Malo with them, broke his 
back, and sank him in the sea. 

The Nagiram men and Sikaram men hoisted their sails and sailed back 
to their homes. 

Thus ends the story of Malo. 

[The following added detail came from Tat Mabo, Tapim Benny- 
father, Benny Mabo, Abou Noah, and, in particular, Marou]: 

Four brothers, Sigar, Kolka, Siu, and Malo, of whom Sigar was the 
eldest, came to Torres Strait from the Tuger country in New Guinea. 1 
Each travelled in his own canoe. 

While they were sailing from Nagir to Sasi late one afternoon in early 
summer, a strong south-east wind sprang up, so they dropped their 
anchors on the reef called Tediu. The wind continued to blow hard during 
the night; Sigar's anchor dragged, and his canoe began to drift. He called 
to his brothers: "I am going to Am, an island where there is plenty of 

Deumer le 

It was felt at Murray Island that some 
points of Aet Passi's story needed clarifi- 
cation if they were to be understood by 
future generations of Murray Island 
people. An annotated version of Aet's 
story is recorded below left. 

1. The Tuger (or Tugeri) were the east 
Marind people. Haddon gives a map 
after Wirz in the Reports (I, 252), 
which places the Marind territory 
south of the Digul River, just west 
of the border between Papua and 
what is now West Irian; and, in the 
Introduction he wrote for Williams 
{Papuans of the Trans-Fly [Oxford, 
1935]), says that Wirz ("Head- 
hunting expeditions of the Tugeri 


In the morning, Kolka, Siu, and Malo sailed for Aurid, at which island 
they were received by the people. Kolka and Siu sat down amongst the 
people of Aurid on the ka moder 2 which they had brought ashore with them 
from their canoes, but Malo refused to keep company with them. Instead, 
he broke off the end of a coconut palm leaf and sat on it aloof from every- 
one else. He ate and slept in isolation from his brothers and the people of 

Kolka did not leave Aurid. It became his place. 

Siu and Malo went to Masig where they landed on the rocky part of 
the beach on the eastern side of the island. Siu joined with the people of 
Masig; Malo behaved in the same manner as he had at Aurid, thus indi- 
cating his intention of establishing his rule at an island far removed from 
his brothers. 

Siu stayed at Masig. Malo sailed alone to Mer. 

Soon after he reached the edge of the small reef called Mebgor, close to 
the edge of Mer's fringing reef, a big wave sank his canoe. 3 He jumped 
overboard and broke off a part of the gunwale. For a while he clung to 
the rope which was tied to the gunwale, but he afterwards let go of it 
and drifted, to cast up on the beach at Begeigiz in the district of Peibri. 

The people of the village of Begeigiz hailed him with the words: 
"Keriba agud, ged seker em 4 (Our god, our protector)." They enclosed him 
with sandstone and told him to wait while they went and fetched food for 
him. But after they went, he broke out and swam away, drifting with the 
tide to Edepek on the island of Dauar. 

Malo was called protector and god by the people of that place, who 
penned him with berber 5 vine before going to their gardens for fruit and 
vegetables for him. When they returned, they found him gone: Malo had 
escaped and was drifting away with the tide. 

He next cast up at Ormi, on Dauar. The sandstone enclosure built round 
him by the people of that place did not prevent him from escaping, and 
as soon as they went to their gardens for food for him whom they had 
received as their agud and protector from their enemies he swam away. 

The tide took him to Ne on the neighbouring island of Waier, where a 
man fenced him in with branches of zi. 6 When the people of Ne went to 
fetch food for him, he broke out and departed with the tide. 

1. (continued) 

into the Western Division of British 
New Guinea", Tijdschrift voor Indische 
Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde, lxxiii 
[1933], 105-22 and map) "informs us 
that the now uninhabited coastal area 
east of the Bensbach [in Papua], as 
far as the Wassi-Kussa ... is con- 
sidered by the Marind as the dwelling 
place of their ancestors . . . and they 
claim it as their own territory . . . 
It was here their ancestors created all 
things and held the earliest mayo 
ceremonies, which gradually were 
carried westward as far as the Kumbe 
river [in West Irian]". 

The Tuger raided the coastal areas 
of western Papua as far east as Mawa- 
ta and the islands of the northern part 
of West Torres Strait, Saibai and 
Boigu. They were head-hunters, for 
whom the lower jaws had the same 
properties as the whole skull". (See 
Reports, I, 251-54, where Haddon 
gives abstracts of certain sections of 
Wirz, Die Marind-anim von Holldn- 
disch-Siid-Neu-Guinea [Hamburg, 
1922, 1925].) 

While I was recording in Torres 
Strait, informants at Dauan told a 
story which, they said, was also 
known on the Papuan mainland "in 
the Tuger country from Jerai to 
Gamar-Mai (just east of Buzi — 
opposite Boigu)". (See the story 
"Kogia" in the section, "Stories from 
Dauan".) When speaking of Malo, 
a Saibai informant said: "We call 
him Wasi Malu, because he came 
from the Wasi country (in west 
Papua)." A Murray Island informant 
also associated Malo with the region 
of the Wasi Kosa. 

The zogo mer (sacred words), "lb 
abra lewer, kerem abra lewer (Jawbones 
his food, heads his food)", were 
given as religious instruction to all 
who were initiated into the Malo- 
Bomai cult at Mer. 

2. Ka moder, stitched, waterproof, mat 
sails of New Guinea origin. 

3. Malo's canoe is said to have turned 
to stone where it sank off the edge 
of the reef. 

4. "Keriba agud, ged seker em": Keriba, 

our ; agud, god, sacred, precious 
thing; ged, home, place, island; seker, 
thorn; em, for. The notion of Malo as 
protector is conveyed by the idio- 
matic expression, "ged seker em" , He 
was to be like the thorn in the ground 
outside a person's home: an enemy 
(who would approach in bare feet) 

would tread upon such a thorn; 
therefore the thorn was a protection 
for that home and the people who 
lived in it. 

5. The stem of berber (Malaisia scandens, 
the fire-vine) is a vicious rasp. 

6. Zi, a tree which grows (like the 
mangrove) at the edge of the sea. 


At Aud, on the hillside above Teker on the island of Mer, there lived a 
husband and wife, Dog and Kabur, and the day that Malo escaped from 
Ne, Kabur announced to her husband that she was going down to the 
reef to catch fish. Dog stayed behind to work in his garden. 

Kabur went down at Teker, walked along the beach to Kebi Teker and 
waded out to the edge of the reef — to the spot called Taparao — where she 
began to fish with a line. Presently she saw a canoe at Saper Kes, the 
passage between the reefs of Waier, Dauar and Mer, but thought no more 
about it, believing it to be bringing Waier-Dauareb on a visit to Mer, and 
continued to fish. When, however, she happened to glance in that direction 
again, there was no sign of the canoe : where she had expected to see a 
canoe she saw, instead, a drifting log. She kept on fishing, having no idea 
that both canoe and log had been Malo in different forms. 

Malo came closer to Taparao and began to gather speed, at the same time 
undergoing a series of rapid transformations: from log to zaibu, from 
zaibu to tauap, from tauap to gor. Just before he reached Taparao he 
changed from gor to mipud. 1 Waves carried him swiftly towards Kabur. 

The woman had seen none of the transformations at the moment they 
were effected — each occurred when she took her eyes off the object which 
was approaching. Now, the sea rose with a surge, buoying her grass skirt, 
and Malo as an octopus entwined himself about her thighs and had con- 
nection with her. Only after he left her did Kabur discover what it was 
that had penetrated her, and then she speared the octopus with a pointed 
stick, lifted it up, and said: "Dog ira o/ 8 (Dog's strength and courage!)" 
She put the octopus and the stick upon which it was still impaled into her 
basket and, after closing the opening, carried it in over the reef to the 
shore. There she placed her basket on a stone, removed the octopus and, 
after pulling out the stick, put the octopus into a pool of water. As she 
stood watching it, the octopus turned red in colour and made slapping, 
sucking sounds. 10 "Dog ira o!" said Kabur. After wringing out her skirt, 
she transfixed the octopus with the pointed stick and replaced both in her 
basket. She climbed up the hill to Aud and hung up the basket. 

Kabur now gave expression to her great joy at having obtained a treasure 
by putting on a wig and marking her right temple with red clay, 11 and 
then she sat down to wait for Dog. When he returned, he immediately 
asked what it was she was celebrating. "Come and see our agud — your 
strength and courage," she said. Afterwards the two carried the basket 
inside the house and hung it there. Both were agreed that they should 
watch it throughout the night. 

Sleepless, husband and wife lay close together, their eyes on the basket. 
In the middle of the night they heard slapping, sucking sounds coming 
from it and presently saw the octopus appear on its rim, light beaming 

7. Zaibu, tauap, and gor are seeds and 
pods of plants which grow in New 
Guinea. Mipud (Phragmites karka) is 
a tall, cane-like grass, which bears a 
seed-head like that of sugarcane. 
During the north-west monsoon, 
many seeds, plants, and logs are 
washed into Torres Strait, there to 
drift and cast up at islands and sand- 

8. Dog ira o! literally, "Dog's liver (o, 
liver)." The liver was considered to 
be the seat of courage and strength. 
There is a crevice at the edge of the 
reef at Taparao where Kabur stood. 
The sea enters it with a sound like 
that of the spoken words, "Dog ira 

9. Outside Au Teker. 

10. Later, the reproduction of this sound 
by Malo initiates became a zogo 
ritual practice. They called the sound 

11. This marking was known as kali mair. 


12. Malo walked round the island on 
three consecutive nights. On each of 
the three successive mornings that 
Dog walked round the island, he was 
following the exact route taken by 
Malo the previous night. Amongst 
the ritual practices associated with the 
worship of Malo was the re-enact- 
ment of Malo's walks (and Dog's). 

Tami le (initiates who carried out 
work for the zogo le) walked along 
the beach at the edge of the sand 
from Las to Gigo (in the district of 
Peibri). Behind them walked the 
zogo le (in a supervisory capacity). 
Only one set of footprints was left in 
the sand by the whole procession, 
each man treading in the prints made 
by the leader. The participants in the 
procession were known as we serer le 
(we, sand; serer, edge; le, men). 

The we serer le called in and stayed 
at Kiam first, and Begeigiz second, 
and then walked on to Gigo where 
they immediately turned back. Stays 
were made at Begeigiz and Kiam, 
and then the procession continued 
without a halt until it arrived back at 

13. On the opposite side of the island to 
Aud and Teker. 

14. The tradition is that Malo visited a 
woman in this house. 

15. Zagareb le, a man born to the Zagareb 
territorial division of Mer. 

16. Beizam le, "shark man". Dam belong- 
ed to the district of Piad, and was 
therefore a Piadaram le. As the shark 
was agud for the Piadaram le, the Piad- 
aram le were on that account called 
Beizam le. 

from its eyes. They saw the door of the house open, heard again the 
slapping, sucking sounds which had come from inside the basket a short 
time before — and then there was silence. 

Malo walked round the island 12 to Peibri 13 where he went into a house. 14 

Just before dawn, Dog and Kabur heard slapping, sucking sounds at the 
door of their house and soon afterwards saw the octopus sitting on the rim 
of the basket, eyes lit up. When it disappeared, slapping, sucking sounds 
came from the basket. And after — no sound at all. 

In the morning, Kabur tied on a fresh grass skirt and marked her right 
temple with red clay before laying a mat and seating herself upon it. Her 
husband painted himself, stuck feathers all over his body, and tied on a 
head-dress of cassowary feathers. 

Dog went for a walk round the island, exactly following the route taken 
by Malo the night before. The men of Las saw him walk by and said : 
"What can our brother-in-law have acquired that he shows himself in 
this fashion?" 

That night there was a lengthy discussion at Las of Dog's extraordinary 
conduct. At Aud, the husband and wife again lay sleepless, their eyes on 
the basket. Malo behaved in the same manner as he had the previous night 
and again visited the opposite side of the island. 

When the men of Las saw Dog go by next morning, decorated as he 
had been the day before, they held a meeting at which they worked out a 
plan to discover the reason for Dog's proud bearing. They called Sarkep, 
a Zagareb /e, 15 and Dam, a Beizam /e 16 of Piad, and told them to go and 
find out what had come into Dog's possession at Aud. Sarkep was Kabur's 
younger brother; Dam, her cousin-brother. Sarkep had yaws on one foot. 

These two men set off for Teker. They had with them weres, with which 
they scooped up sardines on the way. From Teker they climbed up to Aud, 
gave the sardines to Kabur and stayed talking until late in the afternoon. 
Kabur asked them if they were going home. "It is now too late for us to 
be able to arrive before dark because of Sarkep's yaws," Dam said. "Stay 
here tonight and return in the morning," Kabur told them. 

That night, Dam and Sarkep lay close together inside the house, but 
they did not sleep : they had noticed the basket as they crawled through the 
doorway. When, in the middle of the night, the octopus left the basket in 
the same manner as on the preceding nights, the two men pinched each 
other and whispered: "That is the reason for Dog's display." 

Next morning, Kabur brought food for Sarkep and Dam after Dog 
left to go walking. After they had eaten, they took their leave of her, but 
they did not go far before hiding their belongings and sneaking back. 
Silently stealing to the opposite side of the house to where Kabur was now 
sitting outside on a mat, they removed a thatch from the wall. Sarkep 


crawled inside the house, took down the basket, and handed it out to 

A short distance from Aud, Dam, the basket held in one hand, danced 
while Sarkep sang and kept time for him by beating the ground with a 
piru, 11 as if he were beating a drum. Further on, at Keugiz, Sarkep again 
sang and kept time with the piru for Dam's dancing. Sarkep wanted to 
dance with the basket, but Dam refused to part with it. "You beat the 
drum and sing for me — that is your role. It suits you," Dam said. 

They sang and danced at Gebadar Kop and at Gazir hill. They sang and 
danced at Dam, and then they hung the basket in the bushes and went to 
Las. The men of Las said: "Where is it?" "Hanging in the bush," replied 
Sarkep and Dam. 

Meantime, Dog's happiness left him while he was walking; his body did 
not perspire as it should; therefore, he knew that something was wrong 
at Aud. He turned back at Begeigiz and hurried home to Kabur. In reply 
to his anxious questions, she assured him that all was well. So Dog looked 
round outside and, still unconvinced, said to her: "Go inside the house. 
Find out why my happiness left me." And when Kabur went into the 
house she saw the hole in the wall. "The two men took Malo down," she 
called. "They stole it." Dog spoke angrily for a long time. 

The next day, Dog and Kabur decorated themselves, Dog armed him- 
self, and then they went to fight the men of Las for the agud. 

The husband and wife came down at Teker and took the beach road to 
Las. At Mergar, Dog fired arrows which fell at Er. At Er, he fired arrows 
which fell at Eger. At Eger, he fired arrows which fell at Areb. At Areb, 
he fired arrows which fell at Gazir Pit. The arrows fired by Dog at Gazir 
Pit landed at Las. Kabur growled from the beach in front of Las: "Who 
took Malo?" 

The men of Las stood up and said : "Let there be no fighting between you 
and us." And they called Dog and Kabur to them. They made the husband 
and wife sit down and brought them a pipe of tobacco to smoke. "Let 
Malo remain here to be agud for all. You are only two; we are many," 
said the zogo le. Dog and Kabur returned to Aud. 

At Las, the men broke a young, green leaf from a coconut palm and used 
it to make larerkep (ornamental fish eyes) to tie on their heads and their 
legs and their arms. They danced. 

Later, men from the high islands like Nagir (the Nagiram le) and men 
from the low coral islands (the Sikaram le) crossed the sea, searching for 
Malo. They brought with them presents for Malo — clamshells and spider- 
shells having special significance' 8 and two drums, Nimau and Wasikor. 19 

When they reached Mer, they anchored at Werbadu and asked the man, 
Gep: "Where is Malo?" "There!" pointed Gep. They threw him a turtle 
and beat drums by way of thanking him. 

An impression of one of the two masks 
exhibited at Malo-Bomai initiation cere- 
monies, the last of which was performed 
less than one hundred years ago. 

Attached by string to the back of the 
mask was the shell of olai, the hawksbill 
turtle. It symbolized the peaceful nature 
of Malo: "Olai taba daike etkobei (Olai is 
peacefully in its nest [when laying its 

"Mr. Ray was informed that 'Olai' 
was the zogo nei (sacred name) of this 
mask, even the name Bomai was with- 
held from the uninitiated." (Reports, VI, 
307, fn. 1) 


17. Piru, the lower half of the stem of a 
coconut frond. 

18. These shells were placed at Dam, 
one of the important sites in Malo 

19. Nimau and Wasikor were used in the 
sacred Malo ceremonies. The open 
end of these drums represented an 
open mouth with gaping jaws. Ni- 
mau was destroyed by the crew of 
the "Woodlark" more than a hun- 
dred years ago. Wasikor is still at 
Murray Island. 


They rowed to Er, anchored, and asked Barat: "Where is Malo?" "He 
stays where the trees with red paint on them grow," Barat told them. They 
threw a turtle to Barat, beat drums, and rowed to Las. 

There they anchored, went ashore and sat down. They were made 
welcome, and food was brought for them. Each family at Las chose a 
friend from among the visitors and took him into its home. (Friendships 
made at that time have endured through succeeding generations and are 
recognized today.) 

Many canoes had come to Las: the Omai men in their canoe, the 
Deumer men in their canoe, the Geregere men in their canoe, Zagareb 
men in their canoe, and Beizam 21 men in their canoe. 

These men stayed at Las for some time without revealing the full pur- 
pose of their visit. The Zagareb le and the Beizam le of Mer continued to 
feed them well, but at last one of the zogo le said one day while food was 
being heaped for the guests: "Why do we bring food for the Gam lei 12 
Our shoulders are sore from the quantity of food we have carried for 
them." A visitor understood Meriam and passed word to those who had 
come with him. As one man the Nagiram le and the Sikaram le stood up 
and walked straight to their canoes. They dragged them round, stern first 
to the beach, and erected mat sails on board them. 

The Omai men threw down their sail, jumped down, performed like 
dogs, then went and sat down. 

The Deumer men threw down their sail, jumped down, performed like 
Torres Strait pigeons, then went and sat down. 

The Geregere men threw down their mat sail, jumped down, performed 
like parrots, and then went and sat down. 

The men who beat the drums for the performers and the men who 
directed the ceremonies had come ashore from their canoes. 

All now returned to their canoes. On the reef outside Las, they drove a 
pole through the back of Malo: "Malo i sor dikriare 23 ([They] broke Malo's 
back)." Then the Nagiram le and the Sikaram le hoisted their sails and 
departed from Mer. 


Zagareb men, so identified by the 
Menam because, like their own 
Zagareb le, they beat drums and sang 
for the ritual dancing. 

21. Beizam men (shark men), thus identi- 
fied by the Meriam because, like the 
Piadaram le (the Beizam le) who had 
obtained possession of Malo as octo- 
pus, they directed the ceremonies and 

22. Gam le (= Gem le [Gem, body; le, 
people]), Island people of Torres 

Strait other than those belonging to 
the Eastern Islands. The Meriam 
called them "body people" (that is, 
big-bodied people) because they were 
heavily built by comparison with the 
slim-bodied Meriam. 
23. I was told that sor dikriare is used only 
for breaking the back of a turtle. 



[Given by Marou at Murray Island, 15 February 1967] 

(Malo's Law) 

Malo tag mauki mauki, 
Teter mauki mauki. 
Malo tag aorir aorir, 
Teter aorir aorir. 
Malo tag tupamait tupamait, 
Teter tupamait tupamait. 

It is known that the Zagareb le recited 
one part of "Malo ra Gelar" during the 
ceremony at which the sacred masks were 
exhibited to members of the Malo- 

Bomai cult. (See Reports, VI, 298.) It is 
also known that another part of "Malo ra 
Gelar" was recited at the time when a 
taboo was being placed on a garden. 

(Malo keeps his hands to himself; he does not touch what (See Reports, I, 147.) 
is not his. 

He does not permit his feet to carry him towards another 

man's property. 
His hands are not grasping, he holds them back. 
He does not wander from his path. He walks on tiptoe, 

silent, careful, 
Leaving no sign to tell that this is the way he took.) 

Arokak arokak lug-ise waipedawa. 
Deregkak deregkak lug-ise waipedawa. 

(You would not pluck fruit which was not fit to be eaten. 
What does not belong to you is as unattractive as the fruit 
you would shun.) 

Malo Muiar kemerkemer Muiar. 

Ad le ged mimikak Muiar. 

Ad le ged lukep atarukak Muiar. 

(Malo is exactly like the Muiar. People who do not own, 
or belong to, a place, must behave towards it in the 
manner of the Muiar. Treat another man's fruit that 
grows on his land as the Muiar would have done — as 
Malo does.) 

Abi mi doasmelei ne arborem a pes arkem! 

(Look at him — plucking green bananas and fruit before 
they are ready!) 


[This insult to Malo was spoken only by Zagareb le, because of the part a 
Zagareb le played in singing and beating time for the Piadaram le when he 
danced with Malo after having obtained possession of Malo from Dog 
and Kabur. Having said these words, the Zagareb immediately afterwards 
spoke in praise of Malo] : 

Malo bezar kemerkemer bezar. 
Malo irkes bezar sep bezar. 

- Wall aritarit, sem aritarit, 

* *^ k »-JL r 

< .*' , L!V » • Lug aritarit, sumes aritarit. 

i ? .« / V • 

'" ' ' O**^..' * ' " (Malo is exactly like bezar, the lonely, secretive fish. 

Bezaf Where Malo walks, he keeps to a narrow path, which is 

& "* hardly to be seen or recognized by those who do not 

know him. 

Malo planted everywhere — under wall 1 and sem, the 

yellow-flowering hibiscus, 
Under trees, and in forests. Do likewise.) 

1. Wall, Pipturus argenteus. 

2. Those Giar-Dauareb who are descen- 
dants of Koit of Las (who went to 
live at Giar Pit on the island of Dau- 
ar) claim that this instruction belongs 
to Tagai, not Malo. (See the story of 
"Tagai", in this section.) They say 
that the Malo instruction is: "Wet 
taba gab ge baupamaretli (Stars travel 
their own path [across the sky])." 

Daikem eburlem esmaolem. 

Malo pupkem eburlem esmaolem, 

Lerokem eburlem esmaolem. 

Malo urbuzikem eburlem esmaolem, 

Pirukem eburlem esmaolem. 

Malo beikem eburlem esmaolem, 

Pesurkem eburlem esmaolem, 

Malo irpurpurkem eburlem esmaolem. 

(Malo says: 

"Let mounds of yams, ketai and kakidgaba, remain un- 
Let vines rot till no trace remains, 
The bamboo poles that support them vanish; 
Tree-trunks and branches, dry coconut leaves and stalks, 
Faded, fallen flowers — let them go back to the soil. 
You have enough and to spare without them.") 

Gaka nakariklu Usiami gab ge a Segi gab ge. 2 

(Stars travel their own paths across the sky. 
I cannot walk the path that is Usiam's, nor can I walk the 
path that is Seg's.) 



[Told by Marou at Murray Island, 1 February 1967] 

Said travelled from Deudai 1 to Mer. He landed at Gigo and, after planting 
a tree called kaplewer, walked round the island to Werbadu and climbed 
up to Aud. From Aud he walked to Kikite, where he planted a banana 
sucker of the variety called idid kaba. 

Said continued to walk about the island, going through Mene to Bak, 
and from Bak to Zeug and Namsigir and Mido. He planted the kind of 
banana sucker known as iwir kaba 3 at Mido. When he came to Petam he 
planted yet another variety of banana sucker: neis kerem-kerem kaba. 

At Arpet Said found nourishing coconut palms, so he praised that place 
with these words: 

Arpet iai, Arpet iai, uraba niba uraba kuikui gamuriba. 5 

At Gagri, he scratched the soil with his toe and finding it good,- said : 

Gagri ai Gagri ai naba mataiba siai ba 
Iadi nuba iadi Saidi sagadi. 

Said turned back at Gagri and retraced his steps as far as Arpet. Going 
by way of Ardor, Tair, Kes, Utem, and Medeber, he came again to 
Namsigir and then went down the path called Zirugab to Er. At Er, he 
looked towards Teker and Mergar, but he did not go to those places; 
instead, he went to Warwei where a man named Gobai lived. 

Gobai greeted Said and asked where he was going. When Said replied 
that he was merely walking about the island, Gobai asked him if he were 
by himself and, on learning that he was, told Said about a girl at Wao for 
whom a number of young men who had painted their bodies with the 
markings of beizam, lewerem, and kamosar 1 were dancing. This girl, 
Pekari, 8 had so far accepted no young man. 

Neis kerem-kerem kaba 

1. Deudai, here, the northern mainland, 
New Guinea. 

2. Idid kaba: kaba is the Meriam word 
for banana. The three varieties named 
in this story are said to have been 
introduced to Murray Island by Said. 
Idid means oily or greasy. 

3. Iwir kaba is a very long, U-shaped 
banana, dark green in colour until it 
ripens, when it turns yellow-green. 

4. Neis kerem-kerem kaba is a variety 
which bears two heads of bananas 

5. These words are not Meriam. 

6. See previous footnote. 

7. Beizam, hammerhead shark (Sphyrna 
lewini [Griffith]) ; lewerem, black-tip 
shark (Carcharhinus spallanzani [Le 
Sueur]); kamosar, epaulette shark 
(Hemiscyllium ocellatum). 

8. Pekari is a corruption of pakarar, a 
virgin. The use of Pekari as the girl's 
name was deliberately adopted to 
conceal the fact that the girl was a 

9. At, blue-spotted stingaree (Dasyatis 
kuhlii) ; goar, cowtail or fantail ray 
(Pastinachus sephen). The song does 
no more than mention these two fish. 

10. Rabaraba, a feather of womer, the 
man-o'-war hawk. 

11. These Mabuiag words address Pekari 
as the girl whom Said will soon 

12. The sound made by palm fronds 
stirred and scraped together by the 
wind is garagara in Meriam. 

Said asked Gobai to accompany him to Wao. So the two men groomed 
themselves and put on wigs, and then they went out to a pool on the reef 
to examine their appearance. They gazed at themselves in two other 
pools a little further along the reef, one at Gazir, and Malo Keper. And 
then, as they walked round the island towards Wao, each in turn sang a 
love charm, vying with one another. 
Said sang first, at Las : 

(E) deumer (i) ezonei (i) ezoli. 
(E) dibadiba (i) ezonei (i) ezoli. 

{Deumer [the Torres Strait pigeon] is calling. Dibadiba [a 
small green bird with an orange breast and a patch of 
red on top of its head] is calling.) 

At the end of each verse he breathed: "Pekari!" This was a song which 
never failed. 

Gobai stood still and watched Said while he sang, for Gobai, too, knew 
how to woo a woman. So, when Said had done, Gobai matched him: 

Orbei orbei orbei kaur em (a) pasi em (a) sosoia (a). 
(Row, row, row. To an island, to a shore, to a beach.) 

At Orbid, Said sang another song : 
At (e) goar at (e) 9 

Gobai countered with the song that he had sung earlier at Las : 
Orbei orbei orbei kaur em (a) pasi em (a) sosoia (a). 

E deumer (i) ezonei (i) ezoli, 

sang Said. "Pekari!" he called in a whisper. 

And so they continued until they reached Leiwag, where their approach 
was observed by the people at Wao. Said now directed very powerful 
magic at Pekari, waving a magic feather, rabaraba, 10 towards her and 
saying: "Pekari, Pekari, ngau ipi, aidi aidi waleika, Saidi Saidi waleika. u 
Then he stuck rabaraba in his hair and walked with Gobai straight to 

On their arrival they were greeted by Pekari, who took them to her 
place, spread a mat for them, and invited them to sit down. At this, the 
young men who had been courting Pekari departed, and, later in the 
afternoon, Gobai also left Wao, for Said pleased Pekari. These two, Said 
and Pekari, remained together throughout the night. 

In the morning, Said woke to the sound of palm fronds 12 stirred by 
wind: overnight, coconut palms had sprung up where he had lain with 
Pekari. He took his leave of the girl and walked away in the direction of 
Ero Giz. 


At Ero Giz, he met Kudar, mother of Kos and Abob. He speared her 
with his kusbager and put her in the basket 13 which he wore over his 

Kos and Abob, who had returned to Mer after their fight with the 
Warib at Waier, found their mother's footprints leading away from their 
home at Akub and followed them. Thus, they came upon Said's footprints 
also and, realizing that their mother had been abducted, set out across the 
reef in pursuit of her captor. 

Kudar saw them approaching, for there was a hole in Said's basket 
through which she could see out. "You took me as if I were a woman who 
had no sons," she told Said, "but my sons are already close at hand and 
overtaking you fast. See! Foam like dari 14 is flung up by the speed of their 

Kos and Abob raised their nagnag 15 to strike Said. He, however, had 
inserted a tail feather of the man-o'-war hawk in his anus the instant he 
saw Kudar's sons, and he now changed into a man-o'-war hawk and flew 
up into the air at Mad. Too late the brothers struck at him — they only 
succeeded in removing two of his tail feathers. 16 Said rose higher and then, 
removing Kudar from his basket, he dropped her into the sea where she 
became the reef, Aum Kep. 

Higher and higher into the sky flew Said, so high that he could see far-off 
Deudai (New Guinea). He landed at Garsao at Erub (Darnley Island), 
went round to the eastern side of the island to Irmed, and there drank 
brackish water. Afterwards, he went to Deudai. 

Kos and Abob followed Said to Erub. They, too, went from Garsao to 
Irmed and drank brackish water. Then they swam to Deudai. 

13. This basket is called buzil epei. It is a 
New Guinea basket, worn over the 
shoulder. In it a man kept his aids to 
magic. The Mabuiag equivalent for 
buzil epei is topi iana. 

14. Dari, the head-dress made from the 
feathers of sir. the white reef heron 

15. Nagnag, a length of bamboo 10-12 
feet in length with a V-shaped notch 
cut at one end. It is used by men 
crouching in the sea to cripple man- 
o'-war hawks by breaking their 
wings. The hawk is retrieved with 
the notched end of the nagnag, and 
its feathers used to stuff sardines so 
that they will float on top of the 
water and attract other birds. 

16. This accounts for the wedge-tail of 
womer, the man-o'-war hawk. The 
man-o'-war hawk which has white 
at its throat is called said in Meriam. 





1. Akub is in the territorial division of 
Mer called Zagareb. 

2. Stone fish-traps (sai) are a noticeable 
feature of the home reef surrounding 
each of the Eastern Islands, Mer 
(Murray Island), Dauar, Waier, Erub 
(Darnley Island), and Ugar (Stephens 
Island). While many fish-traps have 
fallen into disuse, some are still 
regularly repaired during the season 
of the north-west monsoon. I assisted 
at the repair of a fish-trap at Murray 
Island in February 1967. 

3. A variety of garfish is called warib by 
the Meriam. One informant thought 
it possible that the Warib people 
changed into garfish. 


[Told by Robert Pitt at Murray Island, 19 August 1968] 

Two brothers, Kos and Abob, lived at Akub 1 with their mother, Kudar. 

They quarrelled at Paugiz one day, and when, as a result of the quarrel, 
Kos refused to accompany Abob to the island of Dauar, Abob set out 

But before long, Kos had a change of heart and, with the aid of a tuft of 
grass which he put on top of his head, flew to the bow of Abob's canoe. 
There he alighted and the two brothers made friends again. They landed at 
Saded on Dauar and began to build stone fish-traps 2 on the reef around that 

That day, people called the Warib 3 had come from their home on the 
adjacent island, Waier, to fish at Dabai Mager on Dauar. They caught 
neud (a green fish) and, after eating all the flesh, threw the guts to an old 
woman named Gawer. 

When Kos and Abob reached Ormi — on the opposite side of Dauar to 
Saded — they saw Gawer and would have killed her; only, she called to 



them: "Come here, good boys! Those people, the Warib, have ill-treated 
me and mocked me." Whereupon they accompanied Gawer to her home 
at Keriam, cut sticks with which to kill the Warib from the wood of a 
kus tree and, after being decorated by Gawer, left for Waier. Gawer sat 
down and turned to stone. 

From Keriam, Kos and Abob went to Werte and from Werte to Auter 
(a big reef). From Auter they skimmed across the surface of the water to 
Waier, where they set about killing the Warib. As they went from one 
end of the island to the other and then back, they struck the Warib down 
with such force that their kus sticks cracked the rock wall of Waier into 
fissures and clefts. They killed many Warib, but they could not kill all. 
"However many of us you kill," said those who survived, "there are as 
many, or more, of us to take their place." 

Kos and Abob returned to Mer. They landed at Mergar and began to 
work their way round the island, building fish-traps as they went. When 
they reached their home at Akub, they found that their mother, Kudar, 
had walked away in the direction of Ero Giz, and they began to track 
her . . . 

Repair of a stone fish-trap (sai) at Murray Island, February 1967. There are many sai at 
this island, and some at the neighbouring islets, Dauar and Waier. They are said to have 
been built by the brothers Kos and Abob. 

The story of Kos and Abob is inextric- 
able from that of Said, yet each is always 
told as a separate story. As the conclusion 
of the story of Kos and Abob has already 
been given in the story of Said, it seems 
unnecessary to repeat it here. 

Robert Pitt said that he had always 
understood the story of Kos and Abob 
ended with the two brothers following 
Said to Erub and Deudai. His nephew, 
however, had told him the detail which 
follows : 

Kos and Abob followed Said all the 
way to Goodenough Island (in the 
D'Entrecasteaux Islands). 

Not far from Goodenough Island there 
is a small island on which, at that time, 
there lived an old woman and some girls. 
There were no men at all on the island. 

One of the brothers — which of the 
two is not known — left his brother in 
deep water while he went ashore to in- 
spect this island. When he returned to 
tell him what he had found, his brother 
had turned to stone. After looking back 
at the island, he, too, turned to stone. 

Au kosker 

[Told at Murray Island by Dela Mopwali, 16 February 
1967, and Robert Pitt, 20 August 1968] 

Waiat came to Mer from Mabuiag. 

After his arrival, he went to Werbadu on the other side of the island — as 
Malo had done. He walked on, past Teker, and Areb, and Kaipi Pat, to a 
spot between Boged and Akitir, looking for the kind of place he wanted 
for a home. He placed a stone 1 at the places he visited, a sign that he laid 
claim to them, but none of them suited his purpose, so he left Mer and 
sailed to Dauar. 

His canoe broke on the reef called Akesakes. Clinging to the sal (the 
platform of a canoe, used as a seat), he swam ashore at Giar, the western 
end of the island of Dauar, and began to search for somewhere to live. 
But he only left stones at Giar and Euziz and Eg and Teg, for they were no 
more pleasing to him than the places he had visited at Mer, and then he 
crossed to the island of Waier. 2 

He left a stone on the sandspit opposite Teg and, after walking round 
the island by way of Gergeri Pit, came to Ne. There he watched the leaves 
of the trees moving in the wind and beat his drum for them and sang: 

(Wa) dumiaba, 
(Wa) dumiaba, 
Galmun lagia, 
(Wa) kapu lagia lagia 
(Wa) dumiaba} 

Two women, the Au Kosker} came out of their home — the hole inside 
the big rock, Korsor, at the edge of the sea — when they heard Waiat's 
drum. Half-running, half-dancing, they made their way along the beach, 
passed Waiat, and returned in the same manner as they had come to their 
home in Korsor. 

Waiat heard the sound of another drum close at hand. It answered his 
beats from the cliffs behind him. So he climbed the rocks to look for a 
place in which he could settle at last. High up he found a cave for a home, 
and to it he took the sal of his canoe and his drum. 

Later, the people from those places at which he had left stones became 
his followers. 5 

This is the sequel to the story told at 
Mabuiag about Waiat, head sorcerer of 
Widul. The night after men killed his 
wife and daughter in obedience to his 
commands, Waiat suffered from remorse. 
He beat his drum all night long and then 
murdered his nephews for a trifling 
offence. By that time he could hear the 
sound of a drum a long way off and he 
set out to find it. The elusive drum-beat 
led him from island to island in West 
Torres Strait, but he never caught up 
with it there. So he sailed east. 

1. Actually, "he pulled out his navel 
{kopor) and put it" at each of the 
places mentioned. The kopor are seen 
as stones. The particular spot at Areb 
where he left his kopor is called 

2. Waier is a small, black, volcanic 
island of riven rock and battle- 
mented crags. It is horseshoe-shaped. 
The name of the semi-circular area 
within the arms of the horseshoe is 

3. The language of this song is corrupt 
Mabuiag. At the island of Mabuiag 
it was suggested that the words were: 

Wa gub pudema [repeated] 
Ngalmun lag ia 
Wa kapu lag ia kapu lag ia 
Wa gub pudema. 

(The wind blows, the wind blows. 
Our island, 
Good island, 
The wind blows.) 

It was also suggested that the wind 
was the north-west wind, which re- 
minded Waiat of his home and his 
wife and daughter. 

4. Nothing is known about the Au 
Kosker (old women) except the details 
included in the story of Waiat. The 
Au Kosker were lamar (spirits). 

5, Waiat became the head of a cult of 
evil repute (see Reports, VI, 277-80). 

Both Dela Mopwali and Robert Pitt 
spoke of Waiat as a "proper bad 



[Told by Robert Pitt at Murray Island, 
17 August 1968] 

A man 1 and his daughter, Deumer, 2 were out fishing one day at Mabuiag 
during the north-west season when the north-west wind sprang up and 
blew hard. They could not go up against it in their canoe and drifted away 
from their island. 

Eventually they reached Adud Nor, a small reef off the island of Dauar, 
where their canoe sank. The two castaways (samp) swam until they reached 
Ne on the neighbouring island of Waier and landed without being seen. 

They made their way to a meker 3 tree which grew beside the beach. 
There the father stood his bow and arrows against the trunk of the tree 
and sat down beside them in the shade to rest. Deumer climbed up and 
began to eat the fruit of the meker tree, at the same time throwing some 
down to her father. 

From time to time, small brown birds called tole rose up into the air and 
flew about whistling — as is the habit of tole when someone comes near 
them — and whenever they did this, the father got up and went to see if 
there was anyone in sight. 

That day, a man named Bame — of Sebeg, a village in the district of 
Komet, Mer — had made his way ashore at Waier Pit after his canoe sank. 
Daugiri of Waier saw him land and went towards him with the intention 
of killing him. Bame, however, was accepted by people who lived at 
Waier Pit before Daugiri could reach him. 

In a rage because he had been thwarted, Daugiri left Waier Pit, climbed 
the rocky precipices of the island by the route called Korok Gab, and came 
down on the other side of Waier to Ne at Utut Kur. Tole flew up into the 
air and whistled when they caught sight of Daugiri, and it was then that 
he discovered the presence of a samp on Waier, for he saw the father who 
had left the shelter of the meker tree to find out what had disturbed the 

Daugiri hurried back to Waier Pit by the same route as he had come and 
told his brothers, Waida and Pitari, about the samp. 

At once the three set off for Ne along Korok Gab, discussing as they 
climbed who should kill the samp. Pitari, the youngest brother, was 
appointed to do it, "because," said the other two brothers, "you are the 
best man with a spear — you always spear fish which have thick scales". 
When they came down at Utut Kur, they startled a curlew which flew 
up and called. The samp went to see who or what had flushed it, and 

Aet Pasi included "Deumer" in the MS 
stories which he gave to Ray of the 
Cambridge Expedition in 1898, but it is 
not included in the Reports. It is listed, 
however, in the Reports (III, 228), and an 
outline of the story is given in English 
(Reports I, 349). There the man is called 
Dagapur, and the girl Meket. The story 
is, I think, between one hundred and 
seventy and two hundred years old. 

1. Robert Pitt did not know his name. 

2. Deumer is remembered as a girl who 
had a pale skin. 

3. Meker is the almond tree of Torres 
Strait (Terminali a catappa). 

4. You always spear fish which have thick 
scales: your aim is deadly. 

5. The Meriam word for these birds is 
karor. The people of Murray Island 
call them "curlews" when they 
speak English. I did not see the birds 
for myself at Murray Island. 


while he was walking about, the brothers crawled towards the tneker 
tree — towards the sarup's bow and arrows. 

Deumer, who was still in the tree, saw the men and shouted a warning 
to her father. He ran for his bow and arrows, and as he did so, Pitari 
hurled his kusbager at him, the pointed end of the lance going right through 
the samp's body, entering at the back and coming out in the region of the 
heart. Daugiri and Waida ran to the stricken man and clubbed him. The 
girl jumped down from the tree and wept over her father's dead body. 

Daugiri, Waida, and Pitari took Deumer with them when they set out 
for Waier Pit. On the way, each of them used her. Then they killed her. 

Stem and leaves of the yarn called 
ketai in Meriam, and kutai in Mabuiag 

1. Descendants of Paiwer who, with 
Rebes, had helped to build Maizab 
Kaur for nam kerem (see the Darnley 
Island story of "Maizab Kaur"). 

2. From Giar on the island of Dauar. 

3. The spot at which Irado found the 
root is called Ketai Pit. 

4. I think Eudam Meuram here means : 
"Meuram wives of men thought to 
be dead." 


[Told by Tarau Giaz at Murray Island, 2 September 1968] 

It was the season of mating turtle, so Wakai and Kuskus — two brothers 
who were at that time the head men of the Meuram on Mer — decided to 
go to Kerged (East Cay) on a hunting expedition. They invited Meuram 
of Mer, Boged-Komet men (of Mer), two visiting Meuram from Erub, 1 
and a Giar-Dauareb 2 to accompany them. The party was so long in return- 
ing from Kerged that its members were given up for dead. 

One day, Irado of Werbadu saw the root of a wild yam called ketai at 
the foot of cliffs 3 not far from her home. She followed the root right 
across the island to Werdaid before she found the yam and dug it up. 
Then, on looking out to sea, she saw canoes returning to Mer from Kerged. 
"Eudam Meuram," she called to the wives who were mourning for their 
husbands, "your husbands' canoes are in sight." The women bathed them- 
selves and began to prepare food. 

Wakai and Kuskus were the first to arrive. The others followed soon 
afterwards, Urgop being the last to run in. They made their landing at 
Baz and stood their paddles against a stone at the foot of a rocky headland 
between Mek and Babud. Every member of the hunting party to Kerged 
had returned safely except one — Marwer, a Boged-Komet man. 


The wives ran to meet their husbands. Marwer's wife, not seeing her 
husband, asked where he was. One of the men told her. 

"On the way to Kerged, we all threw food into the sea for the lamar 
at Gaidan Kes — all, that is, but Marwer, who abused the lamar and neglected 
to make his offering. 

The morning after we arrived at Kerged, we saw a pair of mating 
turtles, and a canoe was immediately put into the water. But we found it 
impossible to jump for the turtles: no sooner did a man go to the bow and 
tie the rope to his arm than the turtles disappeared into the water below. 
At last, when only Marwer had not taken his turn at the bow, we urged 
him to try his luck. He went to the bow, made ready — the turtles continued 
to float on top of the water, and he jumped. 5 

Marwer elbowed the male turtle aside, caught the female, and went 
down with her. Presently we saw a katnad 6 at the surface — Marwer was 
between the pair, the male turtle having joined on top of him underwater 
while Marwer was clinging to the female. The kamad sank, reappeared, 
several times. Each time we saw it, another male turtle had added itself to 
the kamad. Marwer's body was crushed and raw from the weight of the 
turtles on top of him. That was the last we saw of our friend." 7 



Leaf of ketai 

Moses Sagigi gave a different reason 
from that of Tarau Giaz for the be- 
haviour of the turtle and the death of 
Marwer. Moses said that Marwer's 
friend remembered the zogo mer, 
certain sacred words, at the instant 
Marwer jumped. To think these 
words while a person was at sea, or 
in the sea, was believed to be 

A kamad is a pair of mating turtles 
which have been joined on top by 
one or more additional male turtles. 
Tarau Giaz differed from Moses 
Sagigi on the detail of the finding of 
Marwer's bones. In Tarau's account 
there is no mention of the visit to 
Omeome Kaur. Tarau said that 
Marwer's bones were found at Gar- 
boi on a subsequent hunting trip to 

Old-style canoe 

Roots and tuber of ketai 

Turtle of the kind known as nam. This 
kind of turtle was associated with the clan 
to which the story of Wakai and Kuskus 
belongs. This clan, Meuram, owned 
"knowledge" which enabled them to 
catch nam, the green turtle. 


Kiriskiris ti 

8. The flat, sandy ground immediately 
adjacent to the beach. 

9. The high ground where most of the 
gardens are made. 

10. The bird called beuger is the booby. 
It is the sacred bird of the Meuram. 

11. Sesareh has a meaning similar to 
nosik, population. 

Tarau Giaz and Moses Sagigi claim direct 
descent from men who accompanied 
Wakai and Kuskus to Kerged. Moses is 
descended from Urgop. 

The garden lands on op, which were 
given by the Meuram to Boged-Komet 
families, include Newar, Eror, Semar, 
Meuz, and Budau. 

Wakai and Kuskus, head men of the 
Meuram, owned Kerged (East Cay) and 
the strip of sea between Kerged and the 
land, beach, and reef owned by them 
on Mer. 

[Told by Moses Sagigi at Murray Island, 23 September 1968] 

Marwer's companions continued to search for him. They had been 
following the kamad, heading towards it whenever it came up to the top 
of the water. It had been taking them further and further away from 
Kerged, and now they went on until they reached Omeome Wesor, a 
very small island on which grew a single fig-tree. The men landed and 
looked for their friend's body. They found his bones; they spoke to them 
in sorrow. 

The men had no water. They were a long way from Kerged. The wind 
dropped. It was naiger time (when the south-east wind begins to swing to 
the north-east, naiger), and for days on end the sea remained dead, flat 
calm. There was food to be had — turtle and fish — but there was no water 
to drink, so the men could not eat. They lay on the sand, parched. 

One night, Marwer's friend had a dream: Marwer came to him and 
said: "There is water here. It is covered by pumice." In the morning after 
he woke up, he saw a kiriskiris ti near him. When it flew away, he followed 
it. Suddenly, the kiriskiris ti swooped down low over some pumice and 
came to rest just beyond it. Marwer's friend, his eyes on the bird the whole 
time, trod on the pumice, which yielded beneath his foot with a splash. He 
lay beside the pool and drank till he could hold no more. He thought his 
fingernails and his toenails must be thirsty, so he filled them with water, 
too. Then he hurried back to the other men and said: "Wake up ! Wake up ! 
Eat food and drink water! Eat food and drink water!" These men replied 
dully: "You should not have said that while we are so very thirsty." 

Marwer's friend decorated his body in imitation of the kiriskiris ti and, 
calling the men to follow him, led them to the pumice and hopped to the 
other side of it. As he had done, they stumbled unknowing into the pool 
and immediately afterwards were drinking. Like him, they, too, filled 
their fingernails and toenails as well. And afterwards they ate. 

A fair breeze sprang up. The men loaded their canoe, taking water from 
the pool for their journey, and were soon on their way to Kerged, which 
place they reached the same day. Next morning, the whole party set sail 
for Mer. 

The second day after the return of the hunting party to Kerged, Wakai 
and Kuskus summoned the Meuram and Boged-Komet families to a 
meeting. The Meuram then gave a part of their land, both tawer" and op, 9 
to the people of Boged-Komet. This land, in the heart of the Meuram 
division of Mer, was called beuger 10 ira marmot {beuger' s breast). The Meuram 
also named the Boged-Komet people "Meuram sesareb." 11 

The gift of land and the bestowal of the term "Meuram sesareb" perman- 
ently linked the Boged-Komet families with the Meuram people of Mer. 




[Told by Sam Passi at Murray Island, 
5 March 1967] 

Long ago there were some girls living at Zomered whose daily custom it 
was to go fishing on the reef in canoes which were the sheaths of the 
flower-heads of coconut palms. Before they set out, they placed food in an 
earth-oven to cook. When they came back, they uncovered the earth- 
oven, removed the food and ate it. 

One day, however, they found upon their return from the reef that 
their oven had been robbed. They had no idea who the culprit was, but 
they determined to find out. So they made a plan. 

The following day they prepared their meal and placed it in the earth- 
oven as usual, but instead of every girl going off to fish, one stayed behind 
to watch for the thief. This girl adopted the form of a small bird, noreb ti, ] 
and perched on the branch of a tree which overlooked the earth-oven. 

Presently she saw a man named Dopem creep to the earth-oven, un- 
cover it, remove the food from it, and steal away. All this she told her 
companions when they returned from the reef. Many angry words were 

Next day none of the girls went fishing. After covering the earth-oven 
they all went and hid behind nearby bushes. 

Before long Dopem approached in stealthy fashion, and, at the moment 
of his beginning to uncover the earth-oven, the girls rushed out from their 
hiding places and beat him with sticks. They beat him until he fell down 
dead, and then they dragged his body down to the beach and threw it 
into the sea. 

Dopem's body was washed up at Beur by the next high tide, so the girls 
threw it back into the sea. But it was returned by the tide to the beach at 
Zeub. Again the girls threw it into the sea. 

This happened many times: it was useless trying to get rid of Dopem's 
body by throwing it into the sea, for it was always brought back by the 
tide. Finally, after the body washed ashore at Korog, the girls decided to 
take it up to the high ground behind that place and bury it. There it turned 
to stone. 

After the girls had buried Dopem, they went back to Zomered. They 
decided to change into mosquitoes and go and live in a shady, damp nook 
close by. Their new home was afterwards called Lag Kop. 2 

1. Haddon (Reports, VI, 8) identifies 
noreb ti as the female Nectarinia 
australis (the Sun bird). 

2. Lag, mosquito; kop, secluded place. 
There was formerly a ritual for the 
control of mosquitoes, conducted at 
and belonging to Lag Kop. 



Three versions of this tale are recorded 
here. The first is an edited version of the 
story as told in 1898 in the Pasi MS by a 
Meriam (Aet Pasi) in the Meriam lan- 
guage (Reports, III, 229-33). It is followed 
by a translation of this edited version. 
The second is a story-song composed in 
Meriam in 1935 (or thereabouts). It is so 
similar to Aet Pasi's story that it is un- 
necessary to provide a translation. The 
only details which have been omitted in 
the ballad are names of places and 
Iruam's demand of Deo. The order of 
the shells into which Iruam jumped 
differs slightly. Version 3 was told in 
Meriam in 1967 (and afterwards trans- 
lated into English) by a man who was 
nearly eighty years old. The translation 
only is given here. A comparison of the 
three versions illustrates the accuracy 
with which the story has been preserved 
during the past seventy years. 

In modern times, a number of myths 
of Torres Strait have been, and are being, 
transmitted through the medium of the 
story-song or sung ballad. These are very 
popular with young and old alike. While 
detail which was formerly included in 
the tale is sometimes absent from the 
story-song, I think it true that the myth 
as sung today is known by every person 
at its island of origin, whereas it would 
formerly have been known only by a 
limited number of people at that island. 



[Edited version, and translation, of story told by Aet Pasi in 1898] 

Iruam ira mer pe ike. Iruam nipat ge dauer. Wi ge gair tabakiauare Las lam ni 
atatkoem. Wi ager iglare. Gair neur xviaba nei Te pipi a Te sabersaber. Pako 
nerut neur abra nei Deo. Wi kikem gair neur Deo i nab ikairare kega: "Mi naba 
ni agrem." E ge Deo ide bes darardare kega: "Kara nisor mermer ike." Wi ga 
tabakiauare Gazir Pit ge tedeketrare i ko tederaueirare. E ge Deo ide tabara 
nisor tais keubu tabakiamulu , gair neur ge bager, Tur Pit ge abi dasmerare. 
Gair neur tabara mer batagrare : "Deo ide merbi bes tidirida." E keubu ikasereder. 
Wi ge Er ge bog, ge bamer maik'e. E ko keubu og, wiabi nardarare, daratagrare 
kega: "Waba adud ni iriauem. Kai noge Eu Pat ge debe ni tarie." Wi ge gair 
neur sopkak iriare kei ko kikem bakiauare. E ge Deo og. E Eu Pat ge nisor edag. 
Ege neis nisor naiter. E ge Iruam bamareredlu newer okaderdar. Emetu okaderdar. 
E eosmelu Deo i itmer kega: "Ma nete?" Deo ide abi detager kega: "Kaka 
Deo nali." E ko abi itmer kega: "Ma nete?" E ge Iruam ide abi detager: "Taba 
a mi adud akailei." Deo note lagkak. E tabara nisor tais, tabakiamulu kikem, 
Iruam keubu tabakiamulu , tawer ge etrumlu. Deo e baraigilu Au Narte ge. 
E Mubagab em bakiamulu. Iruam keubu bakiamulu, Deo, nerner, tabara arborker 
nisor oker. E ge euprer ga ko aiser. Wi ge gair neur tabager abi tadasmerare a wi 
bagrerdare kega: "Deo i Iruam ide digeli." Wi ge au dudum ge bakiauare Las ge, 
ni idagare, iko u em bakarik. Able pesur dikeuare, oker didbarare, Deo ira 
kikem batauerdare. Deo ide tabara ni edag, e ge pesur etaruklu, wi abi damrikare. 
E ge usi ditpulu kikem maber etatko a keubu ditpulu Au Keper etatko, eupamalu 
keret sor ge balu. Wi ge keret dipitare. E ge eosmelu asor sor ge balu. Wi ge 
asor dipitare. E ge eupamalu nazir sor ge balu. Wi ge nazir dipitare. E ge 
eupamalu semep sor ge balu. Wi ge semep dipitare. E ge waiwer ge balu niaiem 
niaikarem. Sina. Esemuda able Deo ira mer. 


Here is the story of Iruam. 

Iruam lived in a waterhole. People came there from Las to fill their 

Te pipi and Te sabersaber 1 roasted ager. 

There was another girl whose name was Deo. They asked her to go with 
them and fill her nisor* at the same time as they went to fill theirs. Deo 
told them a lie: "Mine are full." 

Te pipi and Te sabersaber went without her. They had walked round 
Gazir Pit, when Deo put on her nisor and came after them. The other girls 
looked back when they reached Tur Pit and saw her coming. They said to 
each other: "Deo did not tell us the truth." 

At Er, Te pipi and Te sabersaber climbed up and sat down close by 
[a well]. Deo also climbed up at Er. She saw the girls and said: "You are 
filling your nisor with bad water. I shall climb up further to Eu Pat and fill 
my nisor with good water." Te pipi and Te sabersaber quickly filled their 
nisor and set out for their home. 

Deo went higher up and put down her nisor at Eu Pat. She dipped them 
into the waterhole. At that, Iruam moved and blew out his breath to make 
a bubbling sound in order to fool Deo. 

After he had fooled her, he came up out of the waterhole and said to 
her: "Who are you?" Deo told him and asked who he was. Iruam said: 
"We are going to do a bad thing together." Deo was unwilling. She picked 
up her nisor and ran away down to the beach. Iruam chased her. 

Deo went down to the reef at Au Narte and then went to Mubagab. 
Iruam continued to chase Deo [who was] breathless. Her nisor bumped and 
clattered [as she ran]. She hopped [like a deo bird] and then picked up [her 
nisor and ran on]. 

The other girls looked back and saw her. They pointed to her and said: 
"Iruam is chasing Deo." Very quickly, they went and laid down their 
nisor at Las and climbed a coconut palm. They pulled off pesur and tied 
the end of each. They threw a pesur to Deo. She put down her nisor and 
picked it up. They flogged Iruam. 

Iruam urinated and filled a bu shell. He urinated a second time and filled 
Au Keper. 5 Afterwards, he jumped inside a strombus [shell]. 6 

The girls beat the strombus. He. left it and went inside a spider shell. 7 
The girls beat the spider shell, and he went inside a trochus shell. The girls 
beat the trochus shell, and he jumped out and went inside a semep 8 shell. 
They then beat the semep. He then went into a cleft at the edge of the reef 
and stayed there for ever. 

That is the end of Deo's story. 

1. Te pipi and Te sabersaber: the girls 
were both named "Dusty-mouth" (te, 
mouth; pipi and sabersaber, dusty — 
from the dust which settles around a 
person's mouth when he or she drinks 
from a dry coconut). 

2. Ager (a kind of Amorphophailus), a 
tuber which is rendered edible by 
correct preparation (charring and 
removal of the charred outer skin) 
and cooking. 

3. Nisor (or basor), the shell of the dry 
coconut when used as a vessel for 
carrying and storing water. Nisor are 
always carried in pairs, the connect- 
ing string between the two shells 
being worn over the shoulder. Called 
kusul in the Western Islands. 

4. Pesur, the dry, branched stalk from 
which coconuts depend. 

5. A lagoon on the reef. 

6. Strombus (Conomurex) luhuanus Linne. 

7. Asor, a spider shell (Lambis [Lambis] 
lambis Linne). 

8. Semep (?). The oldest men on Murray 
Island had never heard of a shell by 
this name in their language. 



[Story-song composed by Joe Mabo in 1935 on board the lugger 
"Alice" during a trip from Murray Island to East Cay for trochus] 

Te pipi, Te sabersaber, neur, ge urder. 

Wi tabara ager [glare. 

Meb dauer, wez u barmer, 

Iabim toger. Wi ge erdarlare. 

"Ama! Babi dasmerare 

Ibiibi, tagimtagim, pe merbim ogli." 

Te pipi, Te sabersaber, neur, ge urder. 
Wi ge tabara ager amei deurlare ge. 
Ager iglare ge igorlare ge able mer kem : 
"Kara nene kat tetitili, 
Muimui kat tetitili." 
O ikrislare ge. 

Esaprare ge. 

Niap iaba barukda, 

Batueri, ged im batueri. 

Lu tabara dirsirda, basor aisa, basor aisa, 

Basor aisa, bakirki Er em bakiauda, 

Pat ge tabarti, Piripiri Pat ge tabamri. 

Deo ide tabara basor keubu aisi, 
Baka-bakamuda, keubu tabada, 
Iabi sor ge iabi nakerda, 
"Waba lili usiusi ni iriauem. 

Kai nabakiamulu kabara Kokaper ge debe ni tarie." 

Wi tabara ni etatkolare, 
Basor iaba bosi. Wi bakui, 
Bakirki, ged im bakiauda. 
E ge ogi. 

Kokaper ge tegimulu, temrilu, 
Basor tabara titer. 

Imam ide tasor, 
E ge eudi teosmelu. 


Deo ide tabara basor terep, korider temrilu. 
E ge abi tidiskemelu. 

Deo ide tabara basor terep, korider temrilu. 

E ge abi tidiskemelu. 

Bakir u terborker, bakir u terborker. 

E ge tabara basor tipiter. 

Wi ge abi erdarare korider bamer, 
Lokot ge pesur tetakrare ge, 
O tabakiauare basib. 

Deo ira pesur kikem ditimdare ge, 
Wi ge batkamrik terpeirare ge, 
Damrikare ge, damrikare ge, 
Eupamalu keret 9 ge balu. 

Keret deraimrare ge, 
Nab keret deraimrare ge 
Nab ge, darareg. 

Keret dipitare ge, 
Keret dipitare ge, 
Eupamalu asor 10 ge balu. 

Asor deraimrare ge, 
Nab asor deraimrare ge 
Nab ge, darareg. 

Asor dipitare ge, 
Asor dipitare ge, 
Eupamalu nazir 1 ge balu. 

Nazir deraimrare ge, 
Nab nazir deraimrare ge 
Nab ge, darareg. 

Nazir dipitare ge, 
Nazir dipitare ge, 
Eupamalu as n ge balu. 

As deraimrare ge, 
Nab as deraimrare ge 
Nab ge, darareg. 

9. Keret, a shell {Strombus [Conomurex] 
luhuanus Linne). 

10. A spider shell (Lambis [Lambis] 
lambis Linne). 

11. Nazir, trochus shell. 

12. As, the large Horned Helmet (Cassis 
cornuta Linne). 


13. Maber, either the Pacific Triton 
(Charonia tritonis Linne) or the 
Australian Trumpet Shell (Syrinx 
aruanus Linne), the bu shell of West 
Torres Strait. Bu shell was always 
given as an alternative name for 
maber during the translation of this 
story, so possibly Syrinx aruanus is to 
be understood. 

As dipitare ge, 
As dipitare ge, 
Eupamalu maber li ge balu. 

Maber deraimrare ge, 
Nab maber deraimrare ge 
Nab ge, darareg. 

Maber dipitare ge, 
Maber dipitare ge, 
Eupamalu waiwer ge balu. 

Waiwer deraimrare ge, 
Nab waiwer deraimrare ge 
Nab ge, darareg. 

Waiwer dipitare ge, 
Waiwer dipitare ge, 
Wi waiwer nab dipitlare ge. 

Meg togri wiabi nagida; wi ge waiwer nab dipitlare ge. 
Meg togri nagida narimda. 
Wi bakui, ged im tebeui. 


[Told by Dela Mopwali at Murray Island, 16 February 1967] 

The leaf of wez, a croton 

A woman named Deo lived at Mei. At Wisu, not far from Mei, there lived 
two girls whose names were Te pipi and Te sabersaber. 

Te pipi and Te sabersaber went up into the scrub behind Wisu one day 
and made an earth-oven at Mepau. Close beside it they lit a fire into which 
they threw ager to char. While they waited, they stood and watched the 
ager, pointing to them and saying: "Kara nene kat tetitili! Muimui kat 
tetitili! (Look! the hollow part at the top of my ager is burning!)" 

The moon rose, and, seeing it, the girls were afraid. "Ibi-ibi tagimtagim. 
Wez u barmer (The moon is sick with rheumatism. He is dressed with 
croton leaves)," they said. As the moon rose higher, it looked at the 


girls, and to them it appeared to be so close, that they snatched their ager 
from the fire and ran deeper into the scrub to escape from it. 

They prepared another earth-oven and, after scraping away the charred 
skin of their ager, put them in it to cook. 

Te pipi and Te sabersaber now felt thirsty, so they walked down to 
Wisu, slung their nisor over their shoulders and set out to fetch water from 
Er Pat. They saw Deo, who was sweeping the ground clear of pumice at 
her place at Mei — some of the pumice she swept towards Gazir, some in 
the opposite direction towards Leiwag — and asked her to go with them 
and fill her nisor. Deo, however, refused to accompany them, saying that 
she had plenty of water ; so they went by themselves. 

Te pipi and Te sabersaber roasting ager 
in their earth-oven 

Artist Segar Passi 

As they disappeared from Deo's sight around Gazir Pit, Deo changed 
her mind about going to Er Pat and, snatching up her nisor, hurried after 
Te pipi and Te sabersaber. But by the time she reached Gazir Pit, the two 
girls were already at Wabkik. When she reached Wabkik, they were at 
Eger, at which place they looked back and saw Deo. "There's Deo coming 
with her nisor — she lied to us," they said. They walked on without her, 
continuing along the beach until they arrived at the mouth of Er Pat. 
From there they walked upstream to the waterhole. 

Deo caught up with them as they were filling their nisor. "That water is 
dirty, not fit to be drunk," she told them. "I am going further up to get 

She climbed up to Kokaper, sat down beside the waterhole and lowered 
her nisor into the water. They began to fill with a gurgling sound : "Bu-bu- 

Now a man named Iruam lived at the bottom of the well at Kokaper and 
he heard Deo's nisor filling. He echoed, "Bu-bu-bu-bu," and came up to 
see who was taking his water. "Who are you?" he asked Deo. "Who are 
you?" Deo asked Iruam. Iruam then made advances to Deo, but she would 
have nothing to do with him and, snatching up her nisor, ran away. 
Iruam chased her. 

Deo stumbled down the hillside, nisor clattering as they bumped against 
each other. She fell, and they broke. When she reached the beach at Er, 
she ran straight out across the reef to the wall of the stone fish-trap. 
Iruam threw a stone at her from the foot of the trap. 14 Deo jumped over 
the wall of the fish-trap and, skirting its outside edge, ran towards her 
home. When she came to the end of the fish-trap outside Er, she followed 
round the next fish-trap, and the next, and the next, until she reached 
Leiwag. Sometimes she had to halt to draw breath, but Iruam was always 
close behind her, throwing stones at her, to drive her on. From Leiwag 
she ran back to Mei, when she was seen by Te pipi and Te sabersaber. 

Te pipi and Te sabersaber ran and got three pesur, one each for them- 
selves, and one for Deo, which they threw to the beach for her. While 
Deo was running to pick it up, they ran straight to Iruam and began to 
beat him with their pesur. Deo joined them, and then the three of them 
beat him until he lay on his back, half-dead. 

Iruam urinated twice — the first time towards the reef outside Las where, 
as a result, the big lagoon, Au Keper, formed; the second time into the 
scrub behind Las, where a waterhole came into existence. 

Presently Iruam managed to escape from the girls. He ran out across the 
reef and jumped into a shell (keret) to try and hide from them. But the 
girls found him and cracked the shell with stones. He ran away and 
14. Close to the beach. jumped into a spider shell (asor). When the girls cracked the spider shell, 


he jumped into a trochus shell (nazir). When they cracked the trochus shell, 
he jumped into a helmet shell (as). From the helmet shell he fled to a 
bu shell (maber) and at last escaped from the girls and Deo by crawling 
away, with the shell still on his back, into a narrow opening (waiwer) in 
the sandstone at the edge of the reef. There he could not be reached. 

Deo and Te pipi and Te sabersaber tried in vain to smash the coral and 
sandstone which protected him. They kept at it until they stood waist- 
deep in the water of the incoming tide and were forced to go back to the 

Eventually, Iruam's body became a bu shell which was discovered by 15 The Austra i ian Trumpet Shell 
a man named Adba. (Syrinx aruanus Linne). 



[Told by Bai Day at Murray Island, 14 June 1968] 

Adba lived at Korog. 

One day he went fishing for maiu, 1 but before he threw in his line at the 
edge of the reef, he drove an elukaz into the reef at a spot called Keperweik. 

Presently he saw something white floating on the water some distance 
out from where he stood, but he could not make out what it was. When 
it came closer, however, he saw that it was a bu shell. He coiled his fishing 
line into the palm of his hand, took it to the elukaz and hung it on one of 
the arms, and then he went back and swam to the bu shell. He caught it, 
returned to the elukaz, which he pulled up, and walked in to his home on 
the beach above the high-water mark. There he drove the elukaz into the 
sand and hung the bu shell on it. 

The next morning he removed the bu shell from the elukaz and took it 
with him when he walked up to Karem. There he blew it; but no one 
answered his call. He walked further, to higher ground at Arpet, and blew 
again. This time there were answering calls from bu shells at Mene, Bak, 
Zer, and Kabur. 

Adba thought: "This bu is a good thing to own." So he placed it on a 
small mound of stones at Arpet and afterwards returned to his home on 
the beach at Korog. 

Thereafter, whenever he went up to garden, he always went to Arpet 
as well, picked up the bu and blew it. And every time he did this, bu shells 
replied from Mene, Bak, Zer, and Kabur. 


This is a sequel to the story, "Iruam". 

After Iruam died, he became a very 
big bu shell, the kind that was used in 
Torres Strait to summon people, sound 
alarms, and celebrate victory in warfare. 
This shell is still carefully preserved at 
Arpet, on land which is owned by a 
member of the Day family. 

1. Maiu, golden trevally. This fish is 
said to be caught by Komet people. 
Adba was a Komet man. 

2. Elukaz, the branch of a tree, stripped 
of its leaves and small twigs, which is 
driven into the reef and used as a 
hanger for the fish which a man 



3. The Malo zogo. 

4. Miwar, Acalypha wilkesiana. 

5. It was a round, bee-hive type house. 
It had one small door through which 
one entered or left by crawling on 
all fours. 

6. Seuriseuri, club with rayed stone 
head. It takes its name from its 
resemblance to the starfish, which also 
bears the name seuriseuri. 

[Told by Bai Day at Murray Island, 15 August 1968] 

Adba had two wives. They were sisters. 

One day he said to them: "You stay here. I am going to Las to attend a 
zogo 1 ceremony. 

After he had gone, the younger sister said to the elder: "I am going up 
to the garden at Meuz to get some food." And she took up her knife and 
went off. Her real reason for going to Meuz, however, was different from 
what she had told her sister: she went there to keep an appointment with 
a man. 

The two met as planned. When the man was about to leave Meuz, he 
plucked a miwar 4 leaf and tied it round his neck. Then he went down to 
Las to attend the same ceremony as Adba. The moment he entered the 
zogo place, the leaf at his neck was noticed by Adba, who thought: 
"Miwar grows at Meuz. Can you have been there with one of my wives?" 

The ceremony at Las at an end, Adba returned to Korog. He asked the 
elder of the two sisters who were his wives: "Has either of you been up to 
the garden at Meuz?" And when she replied that her sister had been there 
to get food, Adba knew that his suspicions were well-founded. 

He told the younger wife to clean their place. 

She went into the house 5 to clean there first. Outside, Adba made a loud 
noise in order to startle her. Hearing it, she jumped and uttered her sweet- 
heart's name. So Adba had proof that what he had previously believed to 
be the case was, indeed, fact. 

He took his seuriseuri 6 and went to the house, where he straddled the 
entrance, standing with his back against the wall. 

The woman finished cleaning inside the house, her last job being to put 
the ashes from the fireplace in a basket. This done, she pushed the basket 
through the doorway and began to crawl out after it. Adba struck the 
back of her head with his club. The older wife burst into tears. 

Adba picked up the body and carried it into the scrub behind. There he 
prepared an earth-oven, butchered his dead wife, and set her flesh to 

Now Adba had a cousin who lived at Begeigiz, and about the time that 
Adba began to be busy in the bushes at the back of his house, the thought 
of Adba came into this man's mind. So, spear in hand, he set out for Korog. 
Adba's wife saw him approaching, stopped crying, and wiped her eyes. 
She greeted him and asked what brought him there. "I was sitting alone 
at my place, when the thought of Adba came into my head. I came to see 
his face," the man told her. 


The woman said: "Adba speared a Peibri sor. 1 He took it into the scrub 
behind to bake in an amei. I don't know how he is getting on. Go and see 

When Adba saw his cousin coming towards him, he stood up, walked 
to him, took his hand, and said: "Come! I caught a big fish. We'll eat it." 
The two men sat down and began to eat. 

The cousin noticed some hair on the meat. "I think we are eating human 
flesh," he thought to himself. "You must have killed someone — your 
younger wife, perhaps." He felt sick. 

He stood up and said to Adba: "Negwam? I'm going home now." 

Adba told him to take some of the meat with him for his evening meal, 
but the cousin replied, "You can have it," picked up his spear, and went 
back to Begeigiz. 

Adba ate for a while longer before returning to his house. 

7. Peibri sor, Spotted Eagle-ray (Aeto- 
batus narinari [Euphrasen]). 

8. Negwam, cousin. A brother's children 
and his sister's children address each 
other by the term negwam. 


[Told by Harry Captain at Thursday Island, 26 July 1969] 

One naiger season, 1 Bila, a bow-legged man who lived at Teg on the island 
of Dauar, was visited every day while he was planting in his garden by 
five small brown birds. They used to perch on the branch of a tree, cock 
their heads to one side, and coo to him. 

After a while Bila began to think the birds must be spirits, though he 
did not grasp the full truth, that they were spirit girls who had changed 
their form to that of koko because they had fallen in love with him and 
wanted to be able to see him and watch him at close quarters. 

One night the five girls visited Bila at his house. "What do you want?" 
he asked them. And when the eldest girl said that she wished to be his wife, 
he accepted the proposal and told her she might stay with him. The other 
girls then left. 

Bila's wife became pregnant. He then took her to Tikor on Waier, and 
the pair set up house amongst the people of that place. 

A male child was born to Bila and his wife. When the boy was able to 
talk and run about, he played with the other children at Tikor. 

Harry Captain of Darnley Island (Erub) 
had this story from Poi Passi of Murray 
Island (Mer). Dolly Passi, Poi Passi's 
daughter, knew the precise location of the 
setting — Teg, a sandspit on Dauar, and 
Tikor, a small beach on Waier, the island 
adjacent to Dauar. These details have 
been added to Harry Captain's story, 
which should be compared with the 
story, "The Lamar Who Became a Rain- 
bow", told at Stephens Island (Ugar). 

Bila is the Meriam name for the blue 
tusk-fish, Choerodon albigena (De Vis). 

1. Naiger, north-east wind. There are 
really only two prevailing winds in 
Torres Strait — koki, the north-west 
wind, and soger, the south-east wind. 
At the time of year when naiger 
blows, the south-east wind has begun 
to abate, there are periods of calm, 
and the wind sometimes veers to the 
north-east. Planting begins in the 
gardens at the onset of naiger. 

2. Koko, a little smaller than deumer, the 
Torres Strait pigeon. See also foot- 
note 5 of "Nilar Makrem", in this 


The season of the north-west mon- 

"Rain-black" is Torres Strait pidgin 
for a visibly moving cloud from 
which rain is seen to be falling. 

It was nor'-west time, 3 and one day while Bila's wife was fishing on the 
reef along with the other women of Tikor, a heavy black rain-cloud came 
towards Waier. Seeing it, some of the women called out: "Come on! 
We'd better go home." Bila's wife continued to fish. "You go," she said. 
"I'll stay a little longer." 

At Tikor, Bila was calling to his son: "Come home. Run!" The boy 
took no notice of his father. The other children left him and ran to their 
homes for shelter. Bila became angry. "Come on, you spirit-child (lamar- 
werem) \ Hurry up!" he ordered. 

Although Bila's wife was a long way off, she knew that her husband 
had addressed their child as "lamar werem". Immediately she coiled her 
fishing line. The rain-squall was almost upon her by that time, and she 
went inside it to Tikor. 

A fierce wind came with the rain and blew Bila's house away, leaving 
Bila lying on the ground at the spot where it had previously stood. 

And at the same time, the spirit-child, who had refused to return at his 
father's bidding, was swallowed by the "rain-black" and snatched by his 
mother. Together, spirit-woman and spirit-child were taken by the cloud 
to the spirit-land. Bila never saw either of them again. 


[Told by Tat Mabo at Murray Island, 3 March 1967] 

A man from another clan would 
visit only his connections by blood 
or by marriage. If he set foot outside 
his relative's place, he would be 

Ganomi and his younger brother, Palai, were warriors who lived at 
Umar in Peibri, a district of Mer. They were visited one day by Badwei of 
Zeub, a village in the neighbouring district, Komet, who came without 
sending word beforehand. 1 

When Badwei arrived, the brothers knocked down a coconut for him, 
opened it with a wisker (the rib of a coconut palm leaf), and gave it to him 
to drink from. As he drank with distended throat, Ganomi and Palai 
signalled to each other with their eyes to decide which of them should kill 
him. Ganomi, as the elder brother, wanted to do it, but Palai did not wait. 
He picked up his gabagaba and struck at Badwei's throat. In his haste he 
missed his aim but knocked the coconut from Badwei's mouth to the 


Badwei took to his heels, with Ganomi and Palai in hot pursuit. They 
caught up with him at Umar Pit, where they struck at the base of his skull 
from behind. The Komet men, who were holding a drive (gir) to catch 
sardines with their scoops, saw Ganomi and Palai kneeling on the beach, 
face to face, one on either side of Badwei, with their gabagaba raised. They 
knew the sign — their kinsman lay eating sand: Badwei was dead. 

The brothers ran home, armed themselves, and made for the cliff above 
Serwaged, where they sat down and rolled the stone edges of their gabagaba 
crabwise, from side to side, across the ledge at the top of the wall of rock. 

When the Komet men arrived to avenge Badwei, they shot arrows up 
at Ganomi and Palai from the bottom of the cliff. But the brothers were in 
a commanding position and could not be reached, so the Komet men at 
length returned to their homes. 

Ganomi and Palai waited at Serwaged until it grew dark. Then they 
came down to the beach, made a raft by tying together drifted logs, and 
paddled across to Dadamud, on the island of Dauar, where an old man, 
Gazim, a kinsman of theirs, was line-fishing on the shore. 

Gazim rolled up his line and walked backwards from the approaching 
raft until he and Ganomi and Palai had recognized each other and ex- 
changed greetings. The brothers beached their raft, after which Gazim 
took them to his home. 

News of the brothers' visit to Dauar spread to the villages of Ormi and 
Teg, and to the neighbouring islet of Waier, where Dauareb also lived. 
These people told Gazim that they wished to kill his guests. Gazim replied 
that Ganomi and Palai were his kinsmen and that they stayed with him as 
long as they wished. 

At Mer, meanwhile, the Komet men had visited the Malo zogo at Gazir, 
and a course of action had been plotted which would be fitting recompense 
for the murder of Badwei. 

They sent Paradi to visit Ai Tibei, father of Ganomi and Palai, who lived 
in the cave, Nawaiub, a short distance from the summit of Gelam hill. 

Paradi was welcomed by Ai Tibei who spread a mat for him and brought 
out a roll of tobacco for them to smoke. Ai Tibei climbed a coconut palm 
and knocked down a coconut. He opened it with a wisker and gave it to 
his guest for drink. 

At length Paradi spoke: "Let us go to Kabur where the men are roasting 
and eating iger 2 (a nut)." 

To this Ai Tibei agreed, asking only that Paradi wait until he made 
ready. He went inside his cave, put on his bisiwam 3 and head-dress of 
cassowary feathers, and took up a bundle of arrows and a bow, and then 
the two men set out. 

At the hill called Ai Paser, Ai Tibei looked back towards Nawaiub. 

2. lger (Semecarpus australiensis), the tar- 
tree, closely related to the cashew 
nut tree. 

3. Bisiwam, fringed skirt of sago leaf 
obtained from New Guinea. 


4. Keupai, bar-checked Wrasse (Nova- 
culichthys taeniourus). 

When he saw that the shadow of Gelam covered the entrance to the cave 
which was his home, and the ketai and kakidgaba (yams) which grew out- 
side, tears fell from his eyes, for he knew he looked at it for the last time. 

At Mair, Paradi and Ai Tibei called to the men waiting at Kabur. 
Hearing this, they hid Gado, who had been chosen to kill Ai Tibei because 
he never missed in his aim. They sat down, placing themselves in such a 
manner that when Ai Tibei should join them, he would have his back to 
the bushes behind which Gado was concealed. 

Paradi and Ai Tibei called again as they climbed the hill called Korkor. 
Soon afterwards they reached Kabur, where mats were spread for them. 

A zub (bamboo pipe) was prepared, and when Ai Tibei had smoked, he 
was given a coconut to drink from. 

As he raised it to his lips, Gado sprang out from the bushes. He shouted, 
"Gado beizam (I am Gado the shark)", implying that he never missed his 
prey, and thrust his kusbager into Ai Tibei's back, the tip coming out near 
his heart. 

Ai Tibei struggled to pick up his bow and arrows, but the men at 
Kabur fell upon him and pinioned him. At this Ai Tibei tapped his fore- 
head with his right hand to signify that not one of them would have beaten 
him in fair fight. Then he struggled no more. 

The men at Kabur broke Ai Tibei's neck. When he was dead, they 
removed his jawbone, then covered his body with leaves. They took the 
jawbone to the Malo zogo at Gazir, then returned to their homes. 

News of the killing of their father reached Ganomi and Palai at Dauar a 
few days later. The brothers passed word of it to Giar, Ormi, Teg, and 

All these men gathered at Dadamud, to be told that Ganomi and Palai 
needed their help at Mer. Seven canoes set out, some landing at Serwaged, 
some at Gigo. After beaching the canoes, the men followed Ganomi and 
Palai to Seugiz, where Genamai, head man of the Komet people lived. The 
brothers thrust their kusbager through the walls of his house. 

When Genamai asked who attacked him in the manner of women 
digging up keupai (a fish which buries itself in the sand), 4 the brothers gave 
their names. 

Genamai spoke: "I have stayed here alone, being old and sick. I did not 
visit the Malo zogo. I had no part in the plot to kill Ai Tibei. There is no 
quarrel between you and me." 

Ganomi and Palai withdrew their kusbager, and went on to Nane Pat 
with the Dauareb following behind. From there they went to Kabur, 
where they saw blowflies swarming around a spot that was covered with 
leaves. They uncovered the body of Ai Tibei and wept. 

The men made a paier (a stretcher made from poles of bamboo or wood), 


placed Ai Tibei's body on it, and carried it back to Begeigiz. There they 
laid the old warrior in scrub on his own land, and when they had made all 
decent and orderly, they came away. 

Ganomi and Palai then escorted the Dauareb to their canoes and sent 
them home. They themselves returned to Umar, and there they lived until 
they died. 


1. Zagareb le, people who belonged to 
the territorial division of Zagareb. 

2. Wao is more generally known today 
as Ulag, which is a corruption of 
"Woodlark", a three-masted bechc- 
de-mer fishing vessel which operated 
from Mer and Dauar, probably 
during the mid 1860's. Some Murray 

[Told by Moses Sagigi at Murray Island, 
22 August 1968] 

Islanders one day "made a rough 
model of a ship in the sand beach at 
Wao and stuck three sticks in it for 
masts, and since then that place has 
been called Ulag ("Woodlark")." 
(Reports, VI, 190.) 
3. Gir had two other names — Madi and 

Nilar makrem were the spirits (lamar) 
associated with puleb zogo, puleb being 
small figures of men and fish and animals, 
rudely carved from pumice and lava. 
The puleb are the nog (form) of the nilar 
makrem, the form taken by the nilar 
makrem. I could find no one who knew 
the significance of puleb zogo, and no one 
who had any memory of ritual associated 
with this zogo. Nor could anyone tell me 
the exact meaning of nilar makrem. 
Makrem are bachelors; nilar is the name 
given to a pointed object — a nail would 
be called nilar, for example. Puleb zogo 
was at Leiwag. 

The nilar makrem were once seen by a 
man named Gir. They were never seen 
by anyone else. 

The Zagareb le 1 who lived at Wao 2 also had homes on the high ground at 
Kabur where they sometimes stayed. One of these people was a man 
named Gir, 3 a sorcerer. He did not fear ghosts. 

At low tide one night when the people of Wao were at Kabur, Gir lit a 
torch of pandanus wood and went down to look for fish in his stone trap. 
He left the torch standing outside his house when he walked out to the 

After he had speared some fish, he ran them through from gill to mouth 
on one of the prongs of his spear, raised the spear to his shoulder, and 
walked in to the beach. On reaching his house he heard snores coming from 
it. He stood very still and listened for a while, and then he leaned his spear 
against the wall of the house, picked up the torch, and crawled through 
the doorway — to find nilar makrem asleep on the sand floor. 

No one had ever before seen the nilar makrem, and Gir now observed 
that they were very handsome, young men: they had beautifully-shaped, 

Baur (fish-spear) 


Basor, the shells of dry coconuts when 
used to carry and store water. They 
are always carried in pairs, the con- 
necting string between two shells 
being worn over the shoulder. 
The Meriam word for these birds is 
koko. The people of Murray Island 
call them cuckoos when they speak 
English. I did not see the birds for 
myself at Murray Island. 

Two of the many puleb at Leiwag, 
Murray Island, rudely worked pumice 
figures which are said to be the nog 
adopted by the nilar makrem 
(Left), a fish; (right), a man 

long, straight noses, and their bodies shone as if they had been rubbed 
with oil. They had slung their basor 4 over the ends of the rafters. 

Gir took one of the basor and buried it in a hole in the sand. After that, 
he lay down between two of his strange visitors and slept. 

In the middle of the night the scent of the human in their midst woke the 
nilar makrem. They would have left the house at once; only, one of them 
could not find his basor. He searched for it for a long time, but in the end 
gave up, and the nilar makrem then departed. By that time it was almost 

Gir woke soon afterwards and saw no trace of his visitors. The nilar 
makrem might never have slept at his place — cobwebs stretched unbroken ; 
the sand floor was marked only by tracks made by hermit crabs. He dug 
up the basor, put his spear with the fish on it over his shoulder, and set 
off for Kabur. 

He had not gone far when two cuckoos 5 flew to his spear, removed two 
fish from the prong on which they had been threaded, then let them fall 
from their beaks. Gir picked up the fish, put them back on his spear, and 
continued on his way. But the cuckoos returned again and again, each 
time snatching two fish. Immediately after they did this, Gir picked up the 
fish, returned them to the prong of his spear, and walked on. 

Back at Kabur, he gave the fish to the people and showed them the 
basor that he had stolen from his visitors of the night before. He described 
the appearance of the nilar makrem and gave the basor to a little girl named 
Pasi for a plaything. 

Without warning, a small stormcloud burst overhead, and rain poured 
down. The people ran to their houses for shelter. Pasi left her new toy 
behind on the ground. When the shower ended and the people came out- 
side, the basor had vanished. 


[Told by Mrs. Jessie Sagigi at Murray Island, 
22 August 1968] 

Madi 1 — the man who saw the nilar makrem — was sitting at his place at 
Ulag a few days after the woman Paslag died when he was visited by her 
lamar. 2 He recognized her as Paslag, even though she had taken the face of 
a woman whom he knew to be alive. Paslag asked him for some of his 
fire, saying that her own had gone out. 

He stared at her and said: "You're not a real woman. You're a lamar." 
To which Paslag replied: "You are wrong. I am a flesh-and-blood woman. 
I came here to ask you for fire." 

Madi said: "You are a lamar. Your feet are not touching the ground. 
Your eyes are like materkurup." 3 

Paslag repeated what she had said before, that she was a living woman 
and had come for fire. Madi lit the husk of a dry coconut and gave it to her, 
and she then left him. 

He watched her as she walked away and, when she glanced back at him, 
said: "You are Paslag. Your feet are not touching the ground. Your eyes 
are like materkurup." 

Paslag walked along the beach and went up at Leiwag (not far from 

Soon afterwards, Madi heard the laughter of many voices in the scrub 
behind Leiwag. It was the sound that was always heard after a lamar 
had failed in an attempt to hoax a human. Paslag's lamar companions were 
laughing at her. 

1. This man had three names: Madi, 
Sek, and Gir. 

2. Lamar, a ghost. From le ra mar, 
person's shadow, or reflection. 

3. Materkurup, the periwinkle-blue 
flowers of the plant, mater (Wander- 
ing Jew). 


Ib was believed by those who had not 
been initiated into the cult of Malo- 
Bomai to be a kind of male ghost who 
went from village to village on Murray 
Island making the sound called ibkep. 

Ibkep consists of slapping sounds — in 
imitation of the sound made by Malo as 
octopus. Thus: "making ib (ib ikimri)" 
was a sacred ritual of the cult, to be hid- 
den from the uninitiated. The secrecy 
required for the performance of the ritual 
was obtained through the notion of Ib, 
the ghost. 

Initiates spread word during the day- 
rime that Ib would be abroad in certain 
villages that night. This had the effect 
of keeping indoors all who were un- 
initiated, and of ensuring privacy for the 
ritual, sacred re-enactment of the sounds 
made by Malo as octopus. 

Recorded here is the story of a woman 
who spied on Ib. 

1. The Zogo le were those men who had 
advanced through the cult of Malo- 
Bomai to the final degree, that of 
wearing the sacred masks. To Bai, 
the zogo le were Malo zogo le. To her, 
as to all the uninitiated, Malo stood 
for protection and peace. No one 
who was uninitiated knew that be- 
hind Malo lurked Bomai who was 
always ready to strike secretly, 
savagely, and ruthlessly at anyone 
who either penetrated the sacred 
mysteries, or broke the rules, of the 

2. Tami le were the fully initiated mem- 
bers of the Malo-Bomai cult who 
gave effect to instructions issued by 
the zogo le. 

3. Maid, sorcery. Here, the form of 
sorcery used by members of the 

[Told by Benny Mabo at Murray Island, 12 September 1968] 

One day, when word got round that Ib would walk that night, a woman 
named Bai who lived at Warwei was so afraid that she went to stay with 
relatives at the village of Las. There she would be safe, she thought, for 
she would have the protection of the zogo le 1 whose headquarters it was. 

When Ib was heard at Las that night, Bai, who was hiding inside a 
house with other women and a boy named Mabo, poked her finger 
through the thatch of the wall and peeped through the hole she had made. 
She recognized Ib as men she knew! 

"There's Baton, and Guiai, and Wano!" she whispered to the women — 
and she named others, too. "The men have been fooling us. Men have 
been making ib, pretending to be ghosts." 

In the morning, Bai said to the men at Las: "You've been frightening us 
all this time by making us believe you were ghosts. But I saw you last 
night. It was you, Mamai, you, Wano, Baton, Guiai." And she went on 
to name every man whom she had seen. The men flashed glances at each 

Afterwards they talked and made a plan : as the first move, Wano was to 
take Bai — she was a close relative of his — to his garden at Teiri. 

So presently Wano, his wife, Kak, and Bai left for Teiri, and there the 
three of them began to clean the land of weeds. After a while they felt 
thirsty, so Wano suggested that they go to Tar, which was not far away, 
where he told Bai to climb a coconut palm and knock down some coco- 
nuts for drink. Bai refused. At this, Kak ran away into the scrub, leaving 
Bai alone with Wano : Kak had been told by her husband that Bai was to 
be punished for betraying the secret of Ib. 

The tami le who were in hiding at Tar looked at each other. It was 
time to act. 

They ran out from the bushes and grabbed hold of Bai, demanding that 
she give herself to them ; when she would not, they commenced the pro- 
cess of maid 3 on her, squeezing her windpipe until she dropped to the 
ground unconscious. They were, however, unable to complete every stage 
of maid before Bai regained consciousness, and had only just forced 


"poison" down her throat when Bai struggled free and ran away. 

The tami le chased her, but they could not catch her; they threw stones 
at her, but they missed in their aim. One man, Gasu, left the path and took 
a shortcut through the bushes to get in front of her and block her. At 
Nargiz he came back to the path ahead of Bai and stood waiting for her. 
She tried to dodge round a sem tree. Gasu threw a stone at the back of her 
head, killing her instantly. 4 

The tami le took Bai back to Tar and placed her body at the foot of a 
coconut palm. One of them climbed it, stripped off leaves and coconuts 
and threw them to the ground. These the tami le arranged over and around 
Bai to make it appear that she had died of a fall while knocking down 
coconuts. They returned to Las. 

After Wano and Kak had drunk from coconuts at Tar, they, too, 
returned to Las. 

The day Bai was killed she was missed by her people at Warwei, who, 
when they could not find her in the village, went to Las to inquire if she 
was there. Wano and Kak told them that Bai had gone with them to their 
garden at Teiri and had run away from them. 

The people of Warwei searched for Bai until they found her. They 
carried her body home; and, as soon as the men had armed, they set off 
to avenge her. At Gazir Pit they began to fire arrows at the men of Las. 

Koit of Las stepped out to meet the men of Warwei. "The woman 
spoiled our zogo," 5 he called to them. "She told its secret to some of the 

Immediately, the men of Warwei stopped firing arrows and walked to 
Las, where they sat down and smoked and talked. 

The women and the boy, Mabo, who had been with Bai the night that 
she learned about lb, kept still tongues in their heads until after the mis- 
sionaries arrived in 1871. Bai talked, so she died. 

3. (continued) 

Malo-Bomai cult to kill outsiders 
who penetrated sacred rites. It is said 
to have proceeded by stages. Briefly, 
these were: startling the intended 
victim, overpowering him, throt- 
tling him unconscious, administering 
"poison", erasing from his mind all 
memory of the attack — this, to the 
accompaniment of a chanted formula 
which began with the words, "Malo- 
Bomai" — and finally, after the victim 
had regained consciousness and was 
on his way home, again startling him. 
The victim invariably died some 
days later; nothing could prevent 
him from dying. Before death he 
manifested physical symptoms cha- 
racteristic of all people who died by 
this type of maid ; after death his body 
showed signs which were always 
found on people who had been 
maided in the name of Malo-Bomai. 

It is also said that maid le needed to 
concentrate to the degree of exclud- 
ing everything else from their minds 
when they were performing maid, 
and they must have observed sexual 
continence for a certain period 
beforehand. A pregnant wife pre- 
cluded the successful performance of 

For an early account of this type 
of maid, see Reports, VI, 222-25, 300. 

4. Since Bai recovered consciousness 
before the details of the attack had 
been erased from her mind, and 
since, had she reached home, she 
could have identified her attackers as 
the men who had been masquerading 
as lb the previous night, she had to 
be killed at all costs. Maid had failed, 
so another means was used. 

5. The practice of ib. 


The myth that follows belongs to Badu, I understand, but it appears to 
have been forgotten at that island. I heard it by accident, several months 
after I had handed my MS to the publishers, when I revisited Murray 

[Told by Sarou Billy at Murray Island, 30 July 1970] 

One evening an old man, Sarou Billy, 
came and sang old songs for me, and one 
of them, an ikok — a traditional dance- 
song, sung with tears in the voice — was 
of haunting beauty. Sarou said that the 
words had been sung originally by 
Norinori, the sacred snake ancestor 
(tabo augad), and he then went on to tell 
me the story of this mythical being. Tom 
Dau of Murray Island had heard it about 
seventy years ago as a young man when 
he was working on a lugger. Before he 
died he told it to Sarou Billy who had 
heard Norinori's song at Kubin (on Mua) 
nearly fifty years ago from an old man 
who died soon afterwards. 

Haddon obtained a version of this 
story (see Reports, V, pp. 62-64) which is 
somewhat different from that told at 
Murray Island, 30 July 1970. Sarou told 
his story in Meriam. Sam Passi helped 
with the translation. 

For many years Norinori, a big snake, lived at Paira (Cape York). 

Norinori did not obtain his food on land. Instead, he used to lie watching 
the sea and, when he saw a canoe, swim out to it, sink it, and swallow all 
the people who had been aboard it. And then he used to sing : 

Tabo ngai ad (ia), 
(A) kai ad (ia). 
Wa, tabo ngai ad (ia), 
(E) (a) kai ad (ia) O! 

(I am the sacred ancestor snake. Yes, I am tabo [snake], 
great ancestor, sacred ancestor.) 

The day came when Norinori decided to leave Paira and go to Tuined 
(Possession Island). There, too, he obtained his food from the sea, sinking 
every canoe that came near and swallowing its people, afterwards singing : 

Tabo ngai ad (ia), 
(A) kai ad (ia). 
Wa, tabo ngai ad (ia), 
(E) (a) kai ad (ia) O! 

From Tuined he went to Zuna (Entrance Island), from Zuna to Muralag 
(Prince of Wales Island), from Muralag to Nurupai (Horn Island), from 
Nurupai to Waiben (Thursday Island), from Waiben to Kiriri (Hammond 
Island), from island to island in the chain that extends northward from the 
southern mainland, and at each he left offspring. 

At last Norinori reached Badu and, finding at Argan on the north-west 
side of the island a spot that pleased him, decided to settle. Now he made 
a large home for himself in the ground and came out only when he wanted 
food, which he caught either at Badu or at the neighbouring island, Mua. 
He could enter or leave his underground home by any one of many 

A party of women arrived at Argan from Mabuiag one day to cut 
pandanus leaves for weaving into mats. One, a woman named Staurab, 
chose to work by herself at some distance from the rest and, at the end of 
the day, was much later than they in returning to the beach. She did not 
know that Norinori had scented her. 

After spending the night on the beach, the women set out again to cut 
pandanus leaves, Staurab, as on the previous day, going off by herself. 
Late in the afternoon when all the other women had long since shouldered 
their bundles and gone back to the beach, Staurab was still cutting leaves. 


It was nearly dark when she stopped. She stooped to pick up her bundle — 
and saw Norinori's head and staring eyes. 

Staurab screamed and took to her heels. Norinori withdrew into the 
ground and easily followed her pounding feet. And as she approached one 
of the entrances to his home he pushed his head through it and blocked her. 
Staurab turned and ran in another direction. Again Norinori followed her 
below ground, and again he prevented her from escaping him. She ran 
this way and that way, calling her husband's name: "Aburab! Aburab!" — 
but Norinori's head always popped up to cut off her retreat. Crazed with 
fear, breathless, exhausted, she at last collapsed. Then Norinori took her in 
his mouth and drew her into his home. There he set her down and watched 

In the morning he left her. The woman needed food. He soon caught a 
small, speckled, brown ground-bird (kor), which he swallowed, and then 
he went to Mua to search for more food for himself and the woman. 

Alone, Staurab explored Norinori's home. Presently she found a kaip. 1 
Shell in hand, she began to scrape away the soil above her head, singing 
as she worked: 

Aburab (a) Staurab (ia), 
Norinori (e) Norinori (ia). 
When Norinori returned in the evening he cooked the food he had 
caught during the day and gave Staurab the choicest parts. 

Such was the pattern of the days that followed: in the morning the 
snake set out for Mua for food for himself and the woman; while he was 
gone the woman scraped away at the soil above her; in the evening the 
snake fed the woman well. 


The Mabuiag women sailed home in their canoes, to be greeted on the 
beach by their husbands. Aburab said: "Where is Staurab?" The women 
told him that Staurab had cut pandanus leaves out of sight of them and 
had not rejoined them on the evening of the second day at Argan. They 
knew only that. 

News of Staurab's disappearance spread to the other villages of Mabuiag. 
The men made ready their fighting gear and sailed to Badu. At Argan they 
formed into three columns with Aburab at the head of the tongue (werut), 
the shorter column in the middle of the formation (atei), and marched 
inland to Norinori's home. 

They heard Staurab singing. Aburab stood above the sound of her voice. 
"Staurab!" he called. "Stamp your feet hard," his wife told him. And 
when Aburab stamped his feet the ground gave way beneath them, and 
he found himself standing beside Staurab. "There's no time to be lost," 

1. One half of the bivalve shell which 
was — and still is — used for grating and 
scraping coconut and roots of plants, 
and for cleaning the cloth-like fibre 
found at the base of coconut fronds. 


2. The lines drawn by Norinori on his 
face were the beizam (shark) marking. 
The head-dress was a small dari. 

said Staurab. "Norinori, the snake who caught me and kept me here, will 
soon be back from Mua." All set out for Argan at a run. 

"Norinori will come swiftly through the air to take me from you," 
Staurab told her husband. "He will look like a big black cloud in the sky. 
Is he already coming?" Aburab glanced behind, but he could not see 
Norinori. Husband and wife ran on. 

Norinori returning from Mua with food found his home spoiled and 
Staurab gone. He drew a red line from the middle of his forehead to the 
tip of his nose and another from the base of his right nostril diagonally 
down across his face to the point of his right jaw, and put on a small head- 
dress of feathers of the white reef heron. 2 Then he went up into the sky 
and set out in pursuit of the woman. 

By that time Staurab and Aburab and the Mabuiag men were close to 
the beach at Argan. Eagles sitting in a tree nearby said: "Run your canoes 
into the water and sail home. Forget Norinori. We'll attend to him." 

Two eagles flew to Norinori and grabbed him. One seized his head, the 
other his tail. They soared high in the air and winged north. And when 
Badu and Mabuiag had disappeared from sight and the coast of the 
northern mainland was plain to be seen, they dropped the great ancestor 
snake into the sea. 

Norinori's body broke in three. His head became Dauan; his body, 
Saibai; his tail, Boigu. 


For many months, amounting to years, 
while the work of collection was going on, 
Mrs. Lawrie lived in the islands, sometimes 
for extended periods in small and remote 
communities. She came to know the people 
and to speak their languages, essential if her 
objective and meticulous research was to 
achieve the necessary dimension of depth. 
During this time she recorded on tape, and 
subsequently translated "with the constant 
help and supervision of the Islanders", all 
the tales in this collection, as told to her in 
their Island tongue by the people who 
"owned" them by right of inheritance. 
They were obtained at thirteen islands — 
apart from Thursday Island, the only in- 
habited islands in the Torres Strait today. 

The book is enriched by many illustrations 
drawn or painted by the Islanders themselves, 
by numerous colour photographs, and by a 
noteworthy series of maps of the area, most 
of them prepared by the author from sketches 
made while the task of collection and 
translation was going on. The scholarly 
Introduction and notes provide the back- 
ground knowledge necessary for full enjoy- 
ment and understanding of the stories, and 
the work of preservation is made complete 
by the inclusion of a 45 r.p.m. recording of 
Island songs. 

The illustration on the jacket front is adapted 
from the watercolour "Amipuru" , by Ephraim 
Bani. The sketch on the jacket back, by Derek 
Cumner, shows a Meriam wearing the head- 
dress, dari. 

ISBN 7022 0622 9